Sarah said, ‘G-d has made laughter for me, whoever hears will laugh for me.” (Beresheet 21:6)
Rashi comments that when Sarah Imanu gave birth, there was so much rejoicing everywhere. Many other childless women gave birth as well. Many sick people were healed, many prayers were answered, and there was much happiness in the world.
What was the purpose of these miracles? Rav Pam zt”l answers that Sarah’s happiness at finally attaining parenthood could not be complete if she had friends and neighbors who were still childless. Therefore, to complete Sarah’s happiness, Hashem helped others gain relief from their own personal sufferings.
Rav Pam would extend this concept to the obligation to ensure universal Torah education opportunities for all Jewish children. How can we rejoice with the success of our children’s education when we know that there are so many other Jewish children who are not given such an opportunity at all? Does it make any difference to Hashem, our Heavenly Father, which one of his children is excelling in Torah study when others are totally ignorant of it? We must not rest until כל בניך למוד’ ד'” – All your children will be students of Hashem!” (Yeshayahu 54:13)
Rabbi Reuven Semah
Dvar Torah for Parashat VaYeira
Based on Likutey MoHaran II, Lesson #12
God said to Avraham Avinu, “Bring Yitzchak (Isaac) as an olah (wholly-burnt offering).” Avraham Avinu get up early in the morning to prepare what was necessary…On the third day of the journey, as they were climbing the mountain, Yitzchak Avinu said to Avraham Avinu, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for theolah?” Avraham Avinu replied, “God will choose for Himself a lamb for the olah – my son” (Genesis 22:2-8).
“Where is the place of [God’s] glory?” (Shabbat Musaf Liturgy)
What if Avraham Avinu (our patriarch Abraham) had rolled over and stayed in bed that morning? What if it had been just another busy day serving guests at the tent? No one knew what God had commanded him to do. No one would have known that he was disobeying God and failing a test. Avraham Avinu surely could have considered a number of logical questions about bringing Yitzchak Avinu as an olah:
Where is the God who promised me descendants?
Where is the God who promised me that my descendants would own this land?
Where is the God that promised me that my teaching the world about Him would continue?
At the time of Akeidat Yitzchak (the Binding of Isaac) Avraham Avinu was 137 years old. For over 100 years he had been teaching about the one true God, a god of kindness. He imitated God’s quality of kindness and opened his home to travelers. If he slaughtered Yitzchak Avinu, it would undermine all that he taught.
In fact, we don’t know whether Avraham Avinu considered any of these questions or not. Avraham Avinu received the command directly from God. For him, God was manifestly present in this, his final, most torturous test. Avraham Avinu practiced the simple rule for success in Jewishness that Rebbe Nachman put into words many years later: Make sure that God is in everything you do. Don’t even consider whether it will bring you prestige or not. If it brings prestige to God, do it. And if not, don’t do it!
Yitzchak Avinu, on the other hand, did have questions. Yitzchak Avinu posed a question that turned out to be not only an answer, but a revelation. His father had told him that God had commanded an olah be brought. Yitzchak Avinu bore the firewood on his back. His father carried the fire and the knife. The only thing missing was a lamb, unless…unless he was the lamb. How could the God of kindness about Whom his father had taught him for 37 years be present, how could He be responsible for such a command?
Marching to his death, bearing the wood for his own execution (like one bearing his cross; Bereishis Rabbah 56:3), Yitzchak Avinu suddenly went from being scion and future progenitor of a chosen people to condemned man. He turned to his father, the man who made God famous throughout the world (Rashi on Genesis 24:7), and said, “Where is the place of God’s glory?” It doesn’t seem to include our situation. God is not manifest here. “But ‘WHERE’ is the lamb for the olah.” I believe, no matter what, that He is here. Even in a time and place when one does not see God, when, for all intents and purposes one sees that God is not there and one wants to scream: GOD! WHERE ARE YOU?! one must realize Yitzchak Avinu’s answer: God is here. I have just revealed His presence.
“Va’yeira Ailav Hashem Ba’Alonai Mamrei,” etc-
And He (Hashem – G-d) appeared to Avrahom in the plains of Mamrei.
The Ohr HaChayim observes that the doer of an action is typically mentioned before the object about which the action is refers to. Since Hashem appeared to Avraham, it should be stated that way, more directly. Instead, Avraham’s name is mentioned first and G-d’s name is only implied.
The Sefer Chalav U’Dvash answers that Hashem’s presence is constant. It is a person’s perception of Hashem’s presence which changes. Hashem’s appearance was caused by Avraham’s piety. Therefore, we can consider Avraham as doer of the action and his name is referenced first. (Itturei Torah)
“V’hu Yoshev Pesach HaOhel K’chom Hayom”
– And he sat at the opening of his tent as the day was hot.
Rashi says that Avraham was at the opening of his tent to search for wayfarers to invite in as guests. At this moment, the Divine presence appeared before him. As soon as he saw guests, Avraham interrupted his encounter with G-d and took care of the guests.
Chesed (kindness) for Avraham was something that he actively pursued. It did not result from merely a reaction to seeing other people suffer. If there were no guests to be had, he felt compelled to run out and find some. Chesed was Avraham’s very being and the essence of his service of Hashem. This is why Avraham felt it was so important to pursue guests and hospitality, even during the moments when he stood before the Divine Presence. He viewed these guests as a chance to develop his inner soul, the essence of which was chesed. That is why the hospitality of Avraham was so special. He realized that this was G-d’s will and he didn’t waste any opportunity
Pearls of Life
The Pearls of Life brings Rabbi Avigdor Miller who asks the question what causes friction and how do we overcome the problem? He answers by telling us that this is human nature. People have in themselves attributes of character. And no one is like anyone else. Hakodosh Boruch Hu intentionally made people different in order to perfect them in learning how to deal with other people. That’s why it’s so important to be married. A man and a woman are two different nationalities. Women are a different nation. You learn how to get along with a wife, and wife with a husband. They perfect themselves as the years go by. Friction between people is nothing but the Yetzer Hara! We are in this world chiefly to get along with people. Most of the service of Hashem is measured by your contact with other people. A wife is like a hundred people or a thousand people. Therefore, you have to learn how to get along. People have friction with themselves. Very many people get can’t along with themselves either! They’re angry at themselves, disappointed with themselves, and they fall into depression. So you have to learn how to get along, first of all with yourself. Therefore, the reason for friction is, it’s a test for mankind. We are in this world mostly to succeed in this test.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim
Edited and as learned from my Torah Masters