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rior to destroying Sdom and its environs, Hashem declares His intentions to Avraham Avinu, saying, “Hemchaseh ani meAvraham asher ani oseh,” “Can I cover up from Avraham that which I do?” (18:17). Avraham’s greatness and status as inheritor of the land precludes any unilateral action on Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s part. Despite Hashem’s praises, in praying for the residents of Sdom, Avraham expresses his lack of standing with the phrase “veanochi afar vaefer,” “But I am but dust and ashes.” The Talmud (Sotah 17a, Chulin 88b) quotes Rava as saying that as a reward for Avraham’s declaration, his descendants
Rav Michoel Zylberman
Volume 20, Number 7 Parshat Vayeira
Dust and Ashes
merited two mitzvos: efer parah, the ashes of the Red Heifer, the primary element in
Presumably this statement presents more than a mere play on words. What common theme links “veanochi afar vaefer” with afar sotah and efer parah?
Avraham declared that he was deserving of no kavod, honor, from Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky
Kotev and Mochek in Halacha (Part 2)
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.
In prefacing his prayers to Hashem with “veanochi afar vaefer,” 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’s 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
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ast week we addressed the 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 unconventional act of writing or erasing is a violation of kosev or mochek? Another question which centers on this issue is the following: If there are words written along the binding of the book, such that the act of opening or closing scauses words to become separated or reconnected, may one open or close such a book on Shabbos?
n Parashas Vayeira, after Avraham was prevented from sacrificing Yitzchak, the verse states, “And Avraham called the name of that site ‘Hashem Yireh,’ as it is said this day, ‘on the mountain, Hashem will be seen’” (Genesis 22:14). Onkelos interprets the words “Hashem will be seen” as a hint to the fact that the place of the Akeidah, where Yitzchak was bound, was to be the future site of the Beis HaMikdash, where
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Chesed and Gevurah
Hashem’s 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’s will
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The first major authority to address this question was Rama1. Rama rules leniently by distinguishing between this case and that of cutting the letters of a cake, which was procontinued on page 2
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is supreme over all possible human understanding. This notion is reintroduced with the mitzvah of bringing 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’s heart, and to make him realize that Hashem is the Master of the world and controls everything (Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 606).
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The Purpose of Sacrifice
Kotev and Mochek in Halacha
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 a single word. Therefore, by opening and closing 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’s ruling. 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 Levush4 claims precisely the opposite—that 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 purpose of writing. If so, the act of slicing the cake does not constitute 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 after opening it. Therefore, opening the book is considered preparatory for the act of closing the book, i.e. writing. Closing the book, concludes the Levush, possibly constitutes a biblical violation of kosev. A later authority, the Taz5, quotes and rejects the position
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independence, Hashem demands that Avraham offer up his son on the altar. According to Rashbam, the word “nisa” does not mean that Hashem “tested” Avraham, but rather that “He inflicted pain” on him as punishment for his sin. In doingso, Rashbam rejects the assumption that akeidat Yitzchak constitutes a “test” In reading the passuk of Avraham. “Vayihi achar ha-devarim The majority of meforshim, though, h a e l e h assume vehalokim Why does Hashem that akeinisa es Avraham” deem it necessary d a t Y i t z ch a k (22:1), to proffer the Rashbam ultimate test of c o n s t i tutes a underfaith to Avraham nisayon, a stands that in the form of t e s t , the passuk akeidat Yitzchak? r a t h e r establishes than a a connecpunishtion to the previous episode in which ment. In fact, we might Avraham consummates a appreciate Rashbam’s oppocovenant with Avimelech. nents by looking at verse By ceding the land of the 21:23, which provides Plishtim to Avimelech in details about Avraham’s life exchange for a covenant of of devotion to Hashem in peace between them and the territory of the Plishtim. their children, Avraham dis- This passuk seems to at plays an uncharacteristic least blunt some of the critlack of faith in Hashem and icism we might otherwise in His promise to give all of levy against Avraham. But, Eretz Yisrael to Avraham’s if in fact we adopt the children. Perceiving that the approach that assumes birth of Yitzchak had Hashem wants to test implanted within Avraham a Avraham, what purpose trace of overconfidence and does it serve? Doesn’t Since our very 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?
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of the Levush, and adds a third argument that buttresses Rama’s 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’sak. However, the Mishneh Berura7 writes that although the common 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 inexplicably receive almost no treatment in Shulchan Arukh. 7 siman 340, ot 17
EINAYIM L’TORAH • 2
vhv, Purpose of Sacrifice The ohn,
Hashem already know what will happen? According to Ramban, the point of the nisayon is for Avraham to exercise his freedom of choice and manifest 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 displaying his goodness. Radak, also noting the absurdity of an
omniscient G-d needing to verify the level of Avraham’s commitment, suggests 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.
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Rav Solovetchik (Yimei Zikaron p.224-5) suggests that the akeidah was intended to prove to Avraham himself how deeply committed he was to
haala’as 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 forced to acknowledge Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s dominion, and for that reason the Torah forbids bringing korbanot anywhere else. [See Rashba Kiddushin 43a who quotes from Ra’avad why one might have thought that the prohibition of shechutei chutz would have the status of yeihareig v’al ya’avor – a prohibition on the level of forbidden relations, idolatry, and murder that may not be violated even when the alternative
Hashem. Only then, after he achieves this self-recognition and fully internalizes 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 insatiable desire to fulfill Hashem’s will, “Vayelchu sheneihem yachdav,” “And the two went together” (22:8), naturally follows.
Dust and Ashes
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 stringent prohibition of erasing His name for the sake of promoting peace between husband and wife (Succah 53b). [A falsely accused Sotah would be vindicated though drinking the solution, restoring family peace.]
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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
is death.] Yet, the sacrifice and burning of Parah Adumah take place outside of the Beis Hamikdash, breaking the normal 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’s name – lo saasun chen – is also a source for haala’as chutz.] The mitzvot that Hakadosh Baruch Hu bestowed upon K’lal Yisroel as a reward for Avraham’s statement testify to the value of sincere humility.
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PARSHAT VAYEIRA 3 •
Parsha Points in Vayeira
• After his Berit Milah, disguised angels visit Avraham, informing him that Sarah will have a son. • Hashem tells Avraham that he will destroy Sodom. Avraham pleads for its salvation if it possesses ten righteous citizens. It does not, and is condemned. • Lot invites into his home the angels who will destroy Sodom. The Sodomites, haters of hospitality, are struck with blindness in attempting to demolish Lot’s door. • The angels forcibly evict Lot and his family, and destroy Sodom. Lot’s daughters, believing the entire world destroyed, seduce their father and give birth to Amon and Mo’av. • Sarah is mistaken for Avraham’s sister and abducted by Avimelech, king of the Phillistines. Afflicted, he returns her to Avraham, who prays for Avimelech’s restored health. Later, Avraham and Avimelech make a peace treaty. • Sarah gives birth to Yitzchak. Avraham expels Yishmael upon Sarah’s advice and Hashem’s command. • Hashem commands Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchak. Avraham and Yitzchak are about to obey when an angel instructs them to sacrifice a lamb instead.
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EINAYIM L’TORAH • 4
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