* We would like to believe we are not the same people we were years ago. Everyone would state, they have matured, been educated and have learned from life’s experiences. This is the general attitude of humans. Well, I hope we have matured and become better people. It’s frustrating to see those that have not.
In this weeks parsha our forefather Avraham’s status has been elevated. This is evident by the level of communication between G-d and Avraham. Its clear from the KAVOD that G-d has given Avraham by visiting that Avraham has evolved to a complete and upstanding individual. We learn some very important lessons from this section. First lesson we learn is visiting the sick, which G-d did by approaching Avraham after Avraham followed G-d’s commandment and circumcised himself. The one being afflicted is revitalized by the visit. Secondly, hospitality is of great importance; Avraham in great pain from his circumcision, still managed to accept guest with tremendous enthusiasm.
We see the relationship between G-d and Avraham is now on a higher level because of the circumcision. When G-d revealed himself to the non-Jewish prophet Bilam many years later, Bilam’s immediate reaction, peculiarly, was of great embarrassment for not being circumcised. It seams like there’s a connection between high level of spirituality and circumcision. Rabbi Baruch Dopelt asks why do we say at a brit ” just like he (this boy) has entered a covenant with G-d today so too will he be able to enter the threshold of Torah and mitzvot”? Why don’t we say it when he’s born? After all a Jew is a Jew circumcised or not. The Mystics say by having the brit and its ceremony spiritual energies are infused into the boy. These are the tools necessary to be able to comprehend the Torah in a different realm.There are also thirteen times, in last weeks parsha Lech Lecha where G-d mentions his covenant with Avraham. This is to offset the thirteen attributes of G-d. The Thirteen attributes of G-d is mentioned on Yom Kippur and is a focal point in our quest for forgiveness. It can only be applied if the Jew is circumcised. Rabbi Pesach Krohn teaches us with the infused energy that the boy gets at the brit comes a name. A name defines the task that this boy will do in life. This is the reason Avraham’s name was changed the day he was circumcised.
* “Where is Sarah your wife?” Oh, she’s in the tent”. From here we learn an importance lesson pertaining to women “modesty is a virtue”.
* “How can we have kids my husband is so old” Sarah proclaimed. What about you Sarah, you’re no spring chicken either? Here we see an ongoing occurrence in human nature. It’s the spouse that’s blamed for everything. If only we can appreciate our spouse and realize their good qualities we would have better marriages
* An important lesson is learned about keeping peace between husband and a wife. G-d altered the truth when he approached Avraham about what Sarah said. He asked Avraham; ” why did Sarah laugh and say how can we have kids, I’m so old”. In saying Sarah is old as opposed to what Sarah actually said – “my husband’s old”, Avrahams feelings weren’t hurt and it preserved peace between the couple. One has permission to alter the truth to preserve peace.
* What compelled G-d to destroy the city of Sedom and Amora was an incident pertaining to one of Lott’s daughters. She once performed kindness and gave food to an old passer-by. Kindness, it seems, is against the law in Sedom. As punishment they hung her on a tree and spread honey all over her body and watched how she was tortured as the bees bit her to death. Her cries was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and propelled the all mighty to issue a death warrant to the entire city with the exception of Lot and his family.
* Although Lot had tremendous hospitality, a trait he learned from his uncle Avraham, never-the-less the fact that he offered his daughters as compensation not to harm his guest raises some eye brows
* Rabbi Moshe Feinstein relates a story when he was a young man about a colleague, who in one of his powerful sermons blamed Lot’s daughter for the despicable and immoral act of sleeping with their father. Add insult to injury one daughter named their offspring after the sin MO-AV, from the father. A while later Rav Moshe was informed that his friend is very ill. Upon visiting his friend, Rav Moshe was performing the commandment of visiting the sick, he sees that his friend’s throat is tremendously infected and can barely speak. ” Rav Moshe” the colleague said ” I know why I’m being punished. I had a dream shortly after one of my sermons. I was lying in bed and see two elderly woman standing besides me. It was Lott’s daughters. With a stern and angry tone of voice they accused me of slandering their name. They claimed they did the act out of complete sincerity and self sacrifice to preserve man-kind, figuring that civilization had been destroyed again. ” Instead of praising us you unfairly turned our deed and intentions into a sin, therefore you will pay with your life with punishment to your vocal cords”. Soon after Rav Moshe’s friend passed away. We learn never Judge anybody unless you’re in their shoes.
* Once again Avraham and Sarah marriage and morals are tested when Sarah was taken forcefully and brought to Avimelech the king of the Pilishtim. Avimelech intended on keeping Sarah for himself despite knowing that she might be Avraham’s wife. Although that information wasn’t clear. It didn’t require a rocket scientist to figure that Avraham and Sarah were more than a brother and sister.
* Because of Avraham and Sarah passing the test of the Avimelech incident (she had the opportunity to be Queen, and acqiure tremendous riches). However she chose loyalty to her husband. G-d said you preserved the test with the reproductive organ so I will reward you with a child through the reproductive organ. G-d rewarded them with their own child.
* It seemed Sarah was on a higher level then Avraham. Yishmael, who was Hagar the maid servant’s son (she had him with Avraham), was a bad influence on Yitzchak ( Avraham and Sarah son and the heir apparent to the Jewish nation). She demanded that Avraham send Hagar and her son Yishmael away. Avraham was faced with a difficult decision. What to do? Naturally he turned to G-d who advised him listen to your wife Sarah, ‘She knows”. We learn here the importance of maintaining the right environment for your children and yourself.
Kids tend to be very impressionable so one has to surround them with the right school, nice neighborhood and proper role models at home.
*Avraham and Avimelech make a treaty after Yitzchak was born.. As long as the descendants of Avimelech dwell on the land, no descendants of Avraham will wage war against them. This covenant was the reason later why Israel couldn’t capture Eastern part of Jerusalem. Avraham called the western part Yeru- to see G-d (holy place). Shalem, the eastern part was originally inherited by Noach’s son Shem. The name Shalem comes from Shem. In Yehoshua’s time the Philishtim lived in the Shalem, the eastern part. Although Yehoshua, the leader of the Israelites, conquered the western part, in honor of the treaty the Israelites refrained from entering the Eastern part. It wasn’t until the last descendant of Avimelech died after the time of Yehoshua did the children of Judeah took it.
* The pride and Joy of the Jewish nation, the incident of the AKEDA which is so beloved by G-d. This is the primary weapon we use on Rosh Hashana to ask G-d for mercy and forgiveness
* The narrative prepares us for the next stage of life describing the future wife of Yitzchak, Rivka’s heritage.
Archive for Hachnasat Orchim- Inviting Guests
Our forefather, Avraham, who was famous for his signature hospitality, once asked Shem (Malki Tzedek), the son of Noach, who was in the Ark with his father and brothers, “in what merit did you go out of the ark?” Shem replied, “In the merit of the kindness that we did there.” What kindness?” Avraham asked, “Was there for you to do in the ark” Were there poor people there? Only Noach and his sons were there, so for whom did you do kindness? “For the animals and birds” answered Shem “We did not sleep. We just served one after the other all night.” Thereupon Avraham said “Had they not done kindness for the animals and birds, they would have not have left the ark. Only because they did CHESSED did they go out. If I do it for people, how much more so!!
It said, soon after his meeting with Shem, Avraham went and planted an ESHEL. ESHEL in Hebrew is spelled ALEF, SHIN, LAMED. And the acronym for those three letters ACHILA – food, SHTIYA – drink, LEVAYA – escort. So a good host has to feed the guest with food, drinks, and escort them four steps when they leave.
I, Rabbi Avi Matmon, have a signature dish which has become rather popular around here; it is ABBA’S FAMOUS MEATBALLS. What better time to disclose this recipe then Parshat Lech Lecha, which happens to be the first Parsha I’ve learned back in the first grade and also brings out one of Avraham’s, our forefathers, virtue. First, a little background; I discovered it when I was in the Jewelry business. Once I was in the booth of a good friend of mine, Yale Zoland of Zoland and Sons Jewelers, when I happened to ask “hey does anybody know a good recipe for meatballs” Just then a lady who happened to be at the counter of his booth, said “I have an amazing recipe”. So here it goes:
1 spoon of Heinz chili sauce
1 and half spoons of grape jelly
1 spoon of brown sugar
1 15oz can of tomato sauce
half spoon cornstarch for texture
Mix all in a pot, stir on low flame for 1 hour and 15 mins; pour on uncooked meatballs (standard meatballs recipe); cover and put in oven 20 min; uncover for another 20 mins 350 degrees. WALLA!!!
If you want to be a good host and help your wife. These are delicious meatballs for people who love to eat. They’ll say “NOW, THAT’S A HOST.”
P.S.- The giant, Og, is named because he went to Avraham’s house unexpectedly and found Sarah baking cakes. OOGA means cakes. He was so impressed with the hospitality and the cakes, that the impression stayed with him for the rest of his evil life.
A ritual is performed by the unlucky elders of the city, after an unidentified dead body was found on their side of the border. They measure which city is the body closest too. They then, kill a calf; this is followed by as many as a hundred members from the city who witnessed the ritual wash their hands and proclaim, “Our hands have not shed this blood and our eyes have not seen the deed.”
But why are the townspeople to blame?
One of the mainstream commentaries, Rashi, says that perhaps the host where he stayed did not give him food to eat or was not MELAVEH – escort him – outside. Although one can argue the host was stingy, not giving him food to eat, or lazy to give kavod by escorting, nevertheless, the townspeople can argue, “We didn’t kill him. Why are we responsible?” Rabbi Baruch Dopelt says we really can answer it through just plain old logic and say, well, if he would have been fed properly, perhaps he would have had the energy to fight off his attacker; food can have a wondrous effect. That solves the food issue, however, what about the MELAVEH – escorting someone. What benefit is there, or what would the deceased have gained by the host walking him four steps?
One should also take note, funeral in Hebrew is LEVAYA, which is the same root as MELAVEH. We are escorting the dead to his last resting place. At the funeral, there are many important rituals. Why is LEVAYA the title that is used for the funeral and not HESPED – eulogy? We know it’s quite important to say nice words about the dead.
We observe something interesting from our mother Leah, who was not Yaacov’s favorite wife. She always prayed that her husband should find favor with her. When Levi was born she said, “Now my husband will escort me (ve’liva). The word LIVA means to connect, attachment. She was saying we will walk and we’ll connect. When someone walks together, each person is connected to the other and each inherit the other’s KOACH – strength. Apparently, it’s a big mitzvah to host. The owner does kindness, and when he walks the guest out four steps, the guest inherits that positive energy of the host’s merit of kindness. So the host feels good; he feels self-confident. The guest is going to leave and be protected with your strength.
This concept also works the other way. Pharaoh was very clever; when the Jews left Egypt, the scripture says he escorted them. Pharaoh had negative powers. He intentionally wanted to attach to the Jews to his evil, so later they will be prone to sin.
At a funeral, the reason why many people escort the dead is they want to attach as much merits to the dead, so the deceased could go up and be judged in favor.
If a guest leaves your house and you escort him, your merits will be attached to him and it will give him strength. He will be protected from any dangers that lies ahead. This is the host’s last act of kindness, the finishing touch that he can do to his guest.