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Vol. 18 Issue #4
Parashat Vayera
תשרפאריו
 
Shulchan Aruch rules accordingly. The Magen Avraham(s.k. 33) notes, however, that if one must daven at home,one should still have a set place there for his Tefillah.The Mishnah Berurah (s.k. 28 ) writes that if onehas a choice of several Shuls in which to daven, one shouldgo to the one which has a large crowd because of the idea of Berov Am Hadras Melech, meaning that Hashem is glorifiedmore by a larger multitude. Even if there are wicked people
who are part of the Tzibbur, the Be’er Heitev (s.k. 11)
quotes that one should still daven in Shul with them. The
Sha’arei Teshuvah (s.k. 2), however, discusses just how
many such people may be in the Shul before one ought toleave it. He then adds, as does the Mishnah Berurah, that if  because of the crowd there is a great deal of disturbance andconfusion and it is thus difficult to hear the davening and theKerias HaTorah, it is then preferable to find a Minyan,albeit a much smaller one, somewhere else. Rav Moshe
Feinstein, however, (She’elos U'Teshuvos Moshe, Orach
Chaim 1:99) advises one to be hesitant about leaving a Shul,saying that by staying with a Shul whose members perhapsdo not act properly, one can influence these people andshow them the right path, and thus should not leave; this isprovided, of course, that the actual running of the Shul isdone in accordance with Halacha.Once one is in a proper Shul, is it necessary to havea Makom Kavua there? Rabbeinu Yonah in Berachossays that since the entire Shul is a Makom Tefillah, one neednot be insistent upon always sitting in the same place; the
whole Shul is one’s Makom Kavua. However, the
aforementioned Yerushalmi states that even within the Shulone must specify a place for himself to daven, based uponthe practice of Dovid HaMelech (Shmuel Bet 15:32) , whowould always bow and worship in the same place. This viewseems to be accepted by the Rosh in Berachos (1:7). TheRambam (Hilchos Tefillah 5:6) likewise stresses that oneshould always daven in the same Makom Kavua; theHagahos Maimoniyos (os 10) spells out that even within the
Shul itself one should not change one’s place. This is the
opinion accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim Se'if 19) which states that it is not sufficient to simply choose a
A Set Place for Tefillah
Rabbi Michael Taubes 
The Torah tells us that on the morning followingthe destruction of Sedom and Amorah and the other wickedcities, Avraham Avinu arose early and went back to theplace where he had previously stood in the presence of Hashem (Bereishit 19:27). The Gemara in Berachos 6bexplains that this is where Avraham had davened toHashem, and we therefore see that Avraham had a specificset place, a Makom Kavua, for his Tefillah. The Gemarathus derives that anyone who establishes a fixed place fordavening will be helped by the G-D of Avraham. On thenext
amud 
, The Gemara adds that when one has a fixedplace to daven, his enemies will fall away.The Gemara earlier on 6b indicates that it is
specifically in the Beis HaKnesses that one’s Tefillos are
heard because this is where Hashem is to be found; it seems
clear that this is where one’s Makom Kavua for davening
should be. The Yerushalmi in Berachos 4:4 likewise statesthat one must daven in a place set aside for tefillah, based ona Posuk elsewhere in the Torah (Shemos 20-21). Therefore,the Gemara in Sanhedrin says that it is improper for aTalmid Chochom to live in a city which has no BeisHaKnesses. The Tosefta in Bava Metzia (12:11) says thatthe residents of a city may compel one another to build aShul; the Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 11:1) writes thatwherever ten Jews live, they must set up a Beis HaKnesseswhere they can come together to daven.The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 90:9) thereforerules that one must make every effort to daven in a Shul;the Magen Avraham (s.k. 15) adds that even if one can get aMinyan together in his home, it is still preferable to davenin a Shul. Interestingly, the Beis Yosef quotes from the
Geonim that even if one can’t make it to Shul to daven
with the Tzibbur, one should still go to daven in the Shul building, even as a Yachid, because it is a place set aside forTefillah. The Lechem Mishneh (on the Rambam above)asserts that this is the opinion of the Rambam too, and the
15 Marcheshvan 5774
 
 
 
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Vol. 18 Issue #4
Shul, but even within the Shul one must have a MakomKavua. It is worth noting, however, that the MagenAvraham (s.k. 34) suggests that anywhere within 4 Amos(about 6-
8 feet) of one’s usual place is still considered one’s
Makom Kavua; the Mishnah Berurah (s.k. 60) accepts thisview.
The Proper Will
Steven Stein 
Parshas Vayera begins on a sweltering day outside
Avraham Avinu’s tent. Avraham is in the midst of 
recovering from his
bris milah
, and Hashem appears to him
while “
he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat
of day” (Bereishit 18:1). According to the
meforshim
,Avraham was sitting outside
 – 
completely disregarding theunnatural heat and the pain of his recovery
 – 
because of hisunwavering desire to do
chessed 
. According to the Medrash(Bereishit Raba), Hashem brought the scorching heat of 
Gehinom to this world for Avraham’s sake
- Hashem didnot want him to have to entertain guests in his frail
condition. The Medrash writes explicitly, “hot air will
soothe his injury, at the same time saving him from theeffort of having to wait on guests, since the hot weather will
prevent anyone from travelling on the roads” (Bereishit
Raba 48:8). Yet despite the fact that Hashem sent thisunnatural wave of heat, Avraham manages to lay his eyes onthree guests. After sending a heat wave with the intentionof letting Avraham Avinu rest, why did Hashem changetunes and let three visitors appear for Avraham to serve? A simple yet profound answer is provided in theBereishit Raba. Avraham was agonized by the thought thathe would not be able to practice his usual hospitality, and asa result, Hashem sent three
malachim
disguised as men to
satisfy Avraham’s desire to perform this
mitzvah.
Much can
 be learned from Avraham’s inherent desire to perform actsof kindness. Firstly, Avraham’s orientation towards
chessed 
 and longing for guests
 – 
even while under strenuousconditions
 – 
is a proof for how dedicated Avraham was toserving
hakadosh baruch hu.
A
tzaddik
is never content withprevious accomplishments, but instead seeks to serveHashem at all times. Rav Yaakov Hillel teaches thatAvraham was far more than just a
tzaddik
; he falls into thecategory of a Chassid and beyond. As Rav Hillel explains inhis book Ascending the Path, one is considered a
tzaddik
 when he performs all of the
mitzvos
in the Torah; but onewho goes a step further and seeks out even more ways toserve Hashem is on an even higher
madreiga
. In our eyes,
mitzvos
should not be viewed as a burden, but as 613 waysin which we can grow. Avraham was not content withsimply sitting outside and passing time during a painfulrecovery. He wanted to continue serving Hashem throughone
middah
that he perfected
 – 
the
middah
of 
chessed 
.There is another Medrash that says Avrahamoriginally sent Eliezer, his faithful servant, outside to lookfor guests. When Eliezer returned without guests for hismaster to serve, Avraham took matters into his own hands.
Why didn’t Avraham trust Eliezer? How can he blame
Eliezer when the servant did what was asked of him? Oneanswer is that Avraham was not upset that Eliezer did notcome back with anyone, but he was disappointed because itwas clear that his servant did not even seem
interested 
in
finding any guests. The Gemara says “
ein davar omed lifnei
haratzon” 
 – 
 
“nothing stands before someone’s will.” If 
someone truly wants something, Hashem will give it to
him or her. Therefore, Eliezer’s true will could not have
 been serving guests
 – 
if it was, he would have found them!Avraham, meanwhile, sits outside in the near-intolerableconditions, and guests somehow appear! Although it was
not in Hashem’s original plan, Avraham truly desired
company, and ultimately his wish is granted.In order to apply this concept, we mustunderstand that if we really want to achieve something inlife, we will ultimately be successful in doing so.Therefore, we must ensure that we have the rightobjectives in mind, in addition to having enough
ratzon
,will, for Hashem to merit us to achieve it. If we do, we canuse the 613
mitzvos
to try and propel us to a
madreiga
whereAvraham Avinu is anticipating our arrival.
Compassion for the Needy
Alex Kupchik 
In Parshas Vayera (19:26), the Torah says about
the wife of Lot: “
Vatehi netziv melach
”, “she became a pillarof salt.”
This occurred when Hashem was destroyingSedom; he told Lot and his family not to turn back and
Lot’s wife turned back and became a pillar of 
salt. Rashi explains that the reason for such a strangepunishment is because she had committed a sin throughsalt. Therefore Hashem made her punishment connectedto salt.
Lot’s wife was no different then her neighbors
 
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Vol. 18 Issue #4
in Sedom, she was totally against
hachnasat orchim
 
 – 
 hospitality. So when Lot invited the Angels, he asked hiswife to give them some salt in which to dip their bread for
hamotzi
. She angrily responded “Even these bad customs youwant to bring into my place?!”
 The discussion that arises from this instance is thatof 
mayim achronim.
Before reciting the
birkat hamazon
at thecompletion of a meal, we wash our fingers; this is knownas
mayim achronim
. One of the reasons for this, says theMishnah Berurah (181:1:8) is because of 
melach sedomit
. Thesalt of Sedom is especially potent and potentially dangerous.It can, G-d forbid, blind a person who has it on his fingersand touches his eyes. This makes sense for one who lives inSedom, yet why throughout the entire world, even whenone lives thousands of miles away from Sedom, does oneneed to be concerned for
melach sedomit
? Perhaps
mayimachronim
should only apply in Sedom?A possible answer to this question can be derivedallegorically. Just like salt is not nourishing by itself andonly adds taste to other foods, so too the people of Sedomwere selfish and refused to give food to nourish aguest. Moreover, they even refused to give salt, which has
no nourishment value, to a total stranger. “
Melach Sedomit
is a metaphor for the wicked philosophy of the people of Sedom, who were totally blind to the needs of others andrefused to practice hospitality.A hungry person has sympathy for someone who isin need. However, when he becomes satisfied, he may become insensitive to the suffering of the needy and, likethe people of Sedom; he may become blind to the needs of others.Our Rabbis therefore want us to always havecompassion for the needy. Therefore they instructed, uponthe completion of our meals, when we are full and satisfiedwe must cleanse ourselves and make sure the philosophy of Sedom does not stick to us and, God forbid, blind us. Wemust be willing to perform
hachnasat orchim
at all times, andsympathize with the struggles of the less fortunate.
Happy Halacha
Dovie Neuberger 
I was once having a conversation with a teenagerfrom an out of town day school who was staying in NewYork for the weekend. It came up in conversation that hewas planning on attending a function in Times Square thatFriday night. Sensing the surprise in my face he quicklyexclaimed,
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to break Shabbos.”
He continued to explain that his plan was to ask someone inthe subway if he could spare an extra swipe with hismetrocard and then he would take a train withouttechnically violating any
melachos
. After engaging in a heateddebate as to whether he was actually right from a
halachic
 perspective, I soon realized that we were both missing thepoint.Rabbi Binyamin Yudin, in a Dvar Torah publishedon Parshas Vayera, quotes a piece from the Gaon
 
MiVilna that presents the following question. The Gemarain Chulin tells us that one does not receive reward for
mitzvos
in this world. The reason for this according to theChafetz Chaim is that it is not possible to reciprocatesomething so spiritual with a material reward. Based onthis, the Gaon asks how we can call upon the
zechus
of Akeidat
 
Yitzchak
 
in this world, for Avraham’s reward is not
part of this world. The question follows as to why we spendhours on end each year
davening
on the
 yomim noraim
askingHashem to grant us a year full of health and happiness basedon the merit of the
akeidah?
The Gra answers that the
zechus
emanating from the
akeidah
is not from the mitzvahitself, but rather from the two days before, where Avrahamprepares quickly and happily, excited to perform
ratzon
Hashem
.
 
Rabbi Yudin explains that the Gra’s point is to
teach us the importance of our attitude towards
mitzvos
 – 
 
inaddition to the halachic question of whether we are doing itcorrectly from the letter of the law. This attitude is a crucialpart of the mitzvah, which can have an effect on our livesand give us a more meaningful existence.
 
As a teen, I would venture to say that the abovestory and insight from the Gra both point to what isprobably the single biggest challenge for orthodox teenstoday. We go through the motions of 
halacha
because it isthe norm of the society we live in and feel comfortable in, but never see how the Torah enhances the quality of our
lives. That’s not to say that we don’t realize or believe in
the immense
sechar 
we are to eventually receive, but wenever entertain the realistic possibility of its giving us amore enjoyable life on this world. Based on this Gra we canexplain that the reason for this phenomenon is that wenever give
halacha
the chance to impact us that it should.Although I was initially upset about how the personin the original story disregarded the spirit of 
halacha,
Irealized that I, along with all of my friends, do the samething every day- just in a less blatant manner. Anytime we

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