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6 Ellul 5766 - August 30, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Bein Odom Lechavero and Avodoh Lesheim Shomayim during Golus Yishmoel and Edom

by HaRav Meir Zvi Bergman

Part II

The first part focused on the Torah reading of the first day of Rosh Hashonoh that discusses the birth of Yitzchok and the expulsion of Yishmoel from Avrohom's house by Soroh with Avrohom's consent. The Ramban says that Soroh Imeinu was punished for this, as well as Avrohom for letting her do it, in that Hogor was given a son who was a pere odom, and who later oppresses the descendants of Avrohom and Soroh.

HaRav Bergman explains that it was evident to Soroh and Avrohom that it would not be possible to educate Yitzchok in one house together with Yishmoel and Hogor. Avrohom and Soroh certainly knew that by expelling Hogor and Yishmoel they were committing a grievous injustice, but they did it nonetheless, lesheim Shomayim, in order to safeguard the education of Yitzchok. It was a type of aveiroh lishmoh. They also knew that, as HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz says, an offense bein odom lechavero is like a burning flame and a cutting sword: it cuts and burns even if the intentions are pure. So sending away Yishmoel and Hogor was an act of mesirus nefesh on their part and on the part of their descendants who would be persecuted by the descendants of Yishmoel for all generations. And yet they still did it for the sake of Yitzchok's education.

Since it was done lesheim Shomayim, that is why Soroh is still said at her petiroh to have been like a twenty-year-old, free of sin.


It may be argued that the Ramban is only talking about the first story in Lech Lecho where there was no Divine command to afflict Hogor (although the angel that met her when she was fleeing said to her, "Return to your mistress and submit yourself to her" (16:9), which constituted a quasi- consent to the act of affliction, there was no explicit command to afflict Hogor), and that in the second incident in parshas Vayeiro (21:2), where there was such a command, Avrohom and Soroh's acts in expelling Hogor and her son cannot be considered blameworthy in any regard.

However, the Baal Haturim in Lech Lecho (16:8) writes along similar lines to the Ramban, and also adds in the second story in Vayeiro as follows: "Soroh was punished for having expelled Hogor from her house, and her descendants were subjugated and expelled from there." So we see clearly that even in the second story, where there was a direct Divine command, she was still punished in that her descendants were subjugated.

This is an astounding principle: Even when there is a Divine command, if there is some flaw in bein odom lechavero it needs to be rectified.

The explanation for this seems to be that HaKodosh Boruch Hu created man in His Image, and whoever causes anguish to another offends against that person's Tzelem Elokim. As Chazal say (quoted by Rashi in Ki Seitzei 21:23) on the posuk, "For he that is hanged is a reproach to Hashem": "It is a disgrace for the King that someone who was made in His Image . . . this may be compared to twin brothers who resembled each other. One became king and the other one became a robber and was hanged. Everyone who saw him said that the king had been hanged." Similarly, if an earthly king asks someone to throw some dirt at the king himself, the person obeying the king cannot be said to have committed a crime since he had been commanded to do this, but he is still showing a lack of respect towards the king — a certain flaw which needs to be rectified.

Similarly, we find a gemora in Sanhedrin (102b) on the posuk from Melochim I (22:22), `And there came forth the spirit, and stood before Hashem, and said, I will persuade him. And Hashem said to him, What with? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets. And he said, You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go forth and do so.' Ravino said: Go forth from within my barrier, as it is written, `He that tells lies shall not tarry in my sight'". This was his punishment, even though HaKodosh Boruch Hu told him to go forth and do so.

We are also now in a position to understand the Medrash Rabboh (56:1) on parshas Vayeiro: The Soton came to Avrohom Ovinu and said to him, " `Old man, you have lost your mind, you are about to slaughter a son given to you when you were a hundred years old'. He replied, `I will do it nevertheless.' He said to him, `Tomorrow you will be considered a murderer for having spilled your son's blood!' He replied, `I will do it nevertheless.'"

Many have found this medrash difficult since surely Avrohom had been commanded by Hashem to kill his son. So why should he be considered a murderer?

It would appear from the medrash that Avrohom granted the Soton's claims and, instead of telling him that he was wrong, he replied that he would nevertheless go ahead and fulfill the Divine command, even though he would afterwards be called a murderer. According to what we explained, the Soton was telling Avrohom that he should realize that at the end of the day his action would be a sin against a fellow man. It would be a murderous act and he would have to pay for it, because Hashem's decree is that amends have to be made for such an act under all circumstances. We see then that Avrohom, by proceeding with the Akeidoh, was willing to obey the Divine command even though he knew he would have to pay for it afterwards.

This principle can also explain an apparent contradiction between two Rashis. In Brochos (5a) Rashi (D.h. "Yissurim shel ahavoh") writes that HaKodosh Boruch Hu makes a person suffer in this world without his having committed any sin, in order to increase his reward in the next world beyond his other merits. In omud beis, D.h. Dehavo lehu bonim umeisu, he writes that a person "will have yissurim shel ahavoh because mourning atones for a person's sins."

This is astounding because on the other side of the daf Rashi had just said that yissurim shel ahavoh refer to a person suffering without having sinned. We can only conclude that there this refers to the concept of sinning even when fulfilling a Divine command, and that such an act has to be atoned for.

Now we can understand why Chazal decided that on the first day of Rosh Hashonoh we should read the parsha of VaHashem pokad es Soroh, which relates the sacrifice of both Avrohom and Soroh who sacrificed their descendants of future generations for the sake of fulfilling the Will of Hashem by expelling the maidservant and her son for the sake of Yitzchok Ovinu's education.

Unlike the later Akeidoh of Yitzchok, this akeidoh actually took place. We thus read about a prime example of Avrohom and Soroh's self-sacrifice and pray that the merit of this great akeidoh should protect us. It is because of this akeidoh that we are suffering from the golus of Yishmoel to this day, Hashem yeracheim.

The Yalkut says on the posuk in parshas Toldos (27:34), "And he cried with a great and bitter cry": "Yaakov Ovinu made Eisov utter one cry, and he was punished for this in Shushan the capital (Esther 4:1), `And he (Mordechai) cried with a loud and bitter cry.' Eisov shed three tears, one on the right, one on the left, and one disappeared into his eye, and they were responsible for their being fed bread of tears and being made to shed rivers of tears (lit. `for being given a threefold dose of tears to drink'). The Jews said, `Eisov Horosho aroused mercy by shedding three tears. How much more mercy should you have on us who cry constantly day and night, as it says Tehillim (42:4), `My tears have been my food day and night.' Dovid Hamelech says, Do not be quiet in the face of my tears.

"Rivkoh had commanded Yaakov to dress up and take the brochos. The Targum Yonoson ben Uziel (27:4) says that this command was al pi ruach hakodesh and the Or HaChaim Hakodosh (27:8) writes on the posuk, 'Shema bekoli,' that she told Yaakov that although there was an element of deceit in what she was telling him to do, he should still obey her. In other words, in addition to the mitzvah of kibbud eim, which is a mitzvas aseih, she was also a prophetess, and as Moshe Rabbenu tells us (Devorim 18:15) we have to obey the prophet of Hashem even if he tells us to violate one of the commandments of Hashem, if it is on a temporary basis."

See also Medrash Rabboh (65:5) on the posuk (27:14), "And he went and fetched and brought them to his mother," that Yaakov was "constrained, bent and crying," and yet Chazal still say that Yaakov was punished for the one cry which he caused Eisov to utter for having had the brochos taken away from him. Even though Yaakov was not to blame — on the contrary, he fulfilled the words of the prophecy against his will — but the fact was that he was committing an offense against the Tzelem Elokim by making Eisov suffer. Because of this we are also suffering from Malchus Edom.

See the Yalkut in parshas Lech Lecho on the Bris Bein Habesorim: "R. Eliezer says that at the Bris Bein Habesorim, HaKodosh Boruch Hu showed Avrohom Ovinu the rise and fall of the four kingdoms, as it says, `Take for me a heifer three years old' — refers to the kingdom of Edom, which is like a trampling heifer, `a she- goat of three years old' — refers to the kingdom of Greece, as it says (Doniel 8:8), `And the goat magnified itself exceedingly.' `And a ram of three years old' — refers to the kingdom of Media and Persia, as it says (Ibid. 8:20), `The ram which you saw having the two horns.' `And a turtle- dove' — refers to the descendants of Yishmoel, for tor in Aramaic is an ox, and when the ox will unite with the female they will open up and plunder all the plains." The Zayis Raanan on the Yalkut explains that when the male (Yishmoel) and the female (the heifer Edom) will unite they will destroy the world, chas vesholom.

End of Part II

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