and its environs, Hashem declares His intentions to Avraham
from Avraham that which I do?\u201d (18:17). Avraham\u2019s great- ness and status as inheritor of the land precludes any unilat- eral action on Hakadosh Baruch Hu\u2019s part. Despite Hashem\u2019s praises, in praying for the residents of Sdom, Avraham expresses his lack of standing with the phrase \u201cveanochi afar vaefer,\u201d \u201cBut I am but dust and ashes.\u201d The Talmud (Sotah 17a, Chulin 88b) quotes Rava as saying that as a reward for Avraham\u2019s declaration, his descendants
merited two mitzvos: efer parah, the ashes of the Red Heifer, the primary element in
the purification process of those ritually defiled through contact with the dead, and afar sotah, the dust mixed into the solution drunk by a wife suspected of infidelity.
Presumably this statement presents more than a mere play on words. What common theme links \u201cveanochi afar
In prefacing his prayers to Hashem with \u201cveanochi afar vaefer,\u201d Avraham declared that he was deserving of no kavod, honor, from Hakadosh Baruch Hu. The processes of Sotah and Parah Adumah involve, as it were, Hashem\u2019s forgoing of His own kavod. The bitter solution that the Sotah has to drink includes the megillas Sotah, a scroll with verses containing the name of Hashem, whose ink dissolves in the water. At first
tain,Hashem will be seen\u2019\u201d (Genesis 22:14). Onkelos interprets the words \u201cHashem will be seen\u201d as a hint to the fact that the place of the Akeidah, where Yitzchak was bound, was to be the future site ofthe Beis HaMikdash,where
Hashem\u2019s glory would be manifest. But what was it about the Akeidah that made it only fitting that the Beis HaMikdash would be established where it took place?
The Beis HaMikdash is the ultimate symbol of dedication to Hashem, and it is this aspect of the Akeidah, the ultimate sacrifice, which forever marked that site as the location for dedication to Hashem. Through it, we learn that Hashem\u2019s will
is supreme over all possible human understand- ing.This notion is reintroduced with the mitzvah ofbringing the bikurim,the first fruits,to the Beis HaMikdash. The purpose of bringing the bikurim,says the Sefer HaChinuch in Parashas Ki Savo,is to awaken man\u2019s heart, and to make him realize that Hashem is the Master of the world and controls everything (Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 606).
question of indirect kesiva and mechika, and in particular, whether or not it is permissible to cut the letters on a cake. This question relates to the broader question of whether an uncon- ventional act of writing or eras- ing is a violation of kosev or mochek? Another question which centers on this issue is the following: If there are words written along the bind- ing of the book, such that the act of opening or closing scauses words to become sep- arated or reconnected, may one open or close such a book on Shabbos?
The first major authority to address this question was Rama1. Rama rules leniently by distinguishing between this case and that of cutting the let- ters of a cake, which was pro-
first encounter with Avraham Avinu, we recognize him as the quintessential servant of Hashem, who, time after time, displays unwavering emunah. That being the case, why does Hashem deem it necessary to proffer the ultimate test of faith to Avraham in the form of akeidat Yitzchak?
h a e l e h vehalokim nisa
( 2 2 : 1 ) , Rashbam u n d e r - stands that the passuk establishes a connec- tion to the
previous episode in which Avraham consummates a covenant with Avimelech. By ceding the land of the Plishtim to Avimelech in exchange for a covenant of peace between them and their children,Avraham dis- plays an uncharacteristic lack of faith in Hashem and in His promise to give all of Eretz Yisrael to Avraham\u2019s children. Perceiving that the birth of Yitzchak had implanted within Avraham a trace of overconfidence and
Hashem demands that Avraham offer up his son on the altar. According to Rashbam, the word \u201cnisa\u201d does not mean that
\u201ctested\u201d Avraham, but rather that \u201cHe inflicted pain\u201d on him as punishment for his sin. In doingso, Rashbam rejects the assumption that akeidat Yitzchak constitutes a \u201ctest\u201d of Avraham.
The majority of meforshim, though, a s s u m e that akei- d
t Yitzchak c o n s t i - tutes
a nisayon, a t e s t , r a t h e r than
punish- ment. In fact, we might appreciate Rashbam\u2019s oppo- nents by looking at verse 21:23,
provides details about Avraham\u2019s life of devotion to Hashem in the territory of the Plishtim. This passuk seems to at least blunt some of the crit- icism we might otherwise levy against Avraham. But, ifin fact we adopt the approach that assumes Hashem wants to test Avraham,what purpose does it serve? Doesn\u2019t
Why does Hashem
deem it necessary
to proffer the
ultimate test of
faith to Avraham
in the form of
hibited by Maharam2. When one cuts the letters on the cake, they become permanently detached; however, when one opens a book, the letters will soon be reattached. As such, even when the letters along the binding are separated, they remain
word. Therefore, by opening and clos- ing the book, one merely draws the letters closer and further away from one another, which constitutes neither an act of writing nor of erasing.
R. Yehoshua Pollack3, author of the Perisha, adduces a second proof in support of Rama\u2019s rul- ing. He argues that although it is prohibited for one to build or destroy a door (based on the respective melachot of boneh and soser), all would agree that one may open and close a door on Shabbos, because it is part of the normal use of the door to be opened and closed. Similarly, opening and closing a book is part of its normal usage, and therefore does not violate the melachot of kosev and mochek.
In opposition to Rama and the Perisha, the Levush4claims pre- cisely the opposite\u2014that the case of the book is to be treated more stringently than that of the door and cake. He first asserts that one only violates the biblical transgression of mochek when one erases for the pur- pose of writing. If so, the act of slicing the cake does not consti- tute a biblical violation of mochek because one has no intent to reattach the letters together. However, in the case of opening the book, one will normally close the book at some point
it. Therefore, opening the book is considered preparatory for the act of closing the book, i.e. writ- ing. Closing the book, con- cludes the Levush, possibly con- stitutes a biblical violation of kosev.
of the Levush, and adds a third argument that buttresses Rama\u2019s lenient ruling: There can only be a violation of kosev when there is an act of writing. Here, there is no act; one merely brings two letters close to one another. The Taz seems to be arguing that the melacha of kosev is defined not as causing a word to exist, but rather as the physical act of writing a word. The same may be said for mochek: Mochek is not defined as causing a word to cease to exist, but as the act of erasing a word. Therefore, by opening and closing a book, one does not violate kosev and mochek, even on a rabbinic level.
Le-halakha, it is somewhat odd that neither the Mechaber nor the Rama (in his gloss to Shulchan Arukh, as opposed to his aforementioned teshuva) address this question6. In any case, one would have assumed that the convincing arguments forwarded by those who are lenient, in tandem with the weight of the rulings of the Rama and Taz, would have resulted in a lenient p\u2019sak. However, the Mishneh Berura7 writes that although the com- mon practice is to be lenient, if one has another book without words along the binding, it is better to use that other book, rather than use the book that contains the writing. Therefore, some have the practice to insert a piece of paper into the book before Shabbos, so as not to separate or reconnect the words. One should consult a posek, as to the appropriate practice.
1 Shut Rama, siman 119
2 quoted in Mordechai, Shabbos, ot 369
3 Perisha, O.C. 340, s.v. u-mah
4 quoted in Taz, O.C. 340, ot 2
5 Taz, ibid.
6 In general, kosev and mochek inexplica-
glance, this Biblically ordained process appears to transgress the prohibition of erasing the name of Hashem (Devarim 12:4, Maccos 22a). Chazal indicate that in this instance Hashem waived the strin- gent prohibition of erasing His name for the sake of promoting peace between husband and wife (Succah 53b). [A false- ly accused Sotah would be vindicated though drinking the solution, restoring family peace.]
A similar theme exists within the process of Parah Adumah. Ordinarily, sacrificial rites may not be performed outside of designated areas of the Beis Hamikdash (the azarah), as per the prohibitions of
haala\u2019as chutz and shechutei chutz. One who violates these prohibitions incurs a punishment of kares. The Chinuch (186) explains that when one brings a sacrifice in the Beis Hamikdash he is humbled and awestruck by the experience, finding himself
acknowledge Hakadosh Baruch Hu\u2019s dominion, and for that reason the Torah forbids bring- ing korbanot anywhere else. [See Rashba Kiddushin 43a who quotes from Ra\u2019avad why one might have thought that the prohibition of shechutei chutz would have the status of yeihareig v\u2019al ya\u2019avor \u2013 a prohibition on the level of forbidden relations, idolatry, and murder that may not be violated even when the alternative
is death.] Yet, the sacrifice and burning of Parah Adumah take place outside of the Beis Hamikdash, breaking the nor- mal rules of shechutei chutz. Here too Hakadosh Baruch Hu seemingly waives His kavod in providing this avenue for the ritually impure to purify themselves. [We should note that according to Rashi al haTorah, the same verse that serves as the source for the prohibition of erasing Hashem\u2019s name \u2013 lo saasun chen \u2013 is also a source for haala\u2019as chutz.] The mitzvot that Hakadosh Baruch Hu bestowed upon K\u2019lal Yisroel as a reward for Avraham\u2019s statement testify to the value of sincere humility.
Hashem already know what will hap- pen? According to Ramban, the point of the nisayon is for Avraham to exer- cise his freedom of choice and mani- fest his latent potential in a physical, action oriented fashion. Seforno adds that by manifesting his innermost thoughts and feelings of devotion to Hashem in a physical way, Avraham could more closely resemble G-d who employs action as a means of display- ing his goodness.
omniscient G-d needing to verify the level of Avraham\u2019s commitment, sug- gests that the akeidah demonstrates to all future generations the deep-seated love and commitment that Avraham reserves for Hashem. Even though Avraham loves Yitzchak more than anything in the world, his passion for Hashem is even stronger.
Rav Solovetchik (Yimei Zikaron p.224-5) suggests that the akeidah was intended to prove to Avraham himself how deeply committed he was to
Hashem. Only then, after he achieves this self-recognition and fully internal- izes his own avahas Hashem, can Avraham be expected to fully transmit the same level of commitment to the next generation. When Yitzchak sees in his father Avraham such an insa- tiable desire to fulfill Hashem\u2019s will, \u201cVayelchu sheneihem yachdav,\u201d \u201cAnd the two went together\u201d (22:8), naturally follows.
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