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אל תביט אחריך

Do not look behind you. (19:17)

Neither Lot nor anyone in his group of survivors was permitted to look back at the carnage that was taking place. Their merit in being spared was on condition that they not be in the midst of Sodom during its destruction. Thus, they could be saved before the upheaval began. Furthermore, they were not entitled to witness the destruction of Sodom while they remained unscathed. Lot’s wife did not listen. When she turned around to see what was happening to her fellows, Hashem punished her. A deeper meaning can be attributed to the words, “Do not look behind you,” one…

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והאלקים נסה את אברהם

G-d tested Avraham. (22:1)

Avraham Avinu and his son, Yitzchak (Avinu), merited to achieve the highest level of serving Hashem: Kiddush Shem Shomayim, sanctifying Hashem’s Name, with their preparedness to slaughter and be slaughtered for the sake of Hashem. In the end, Hashem dispatched a heavenly angel to instruct Avraham to desist. Heaven neither requires, nor encourages, human sacrifice. It is far better (and probably more difficult) to live a life of Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying Hashem, in our every demeanor, our every action, than to die for him. The Baal HaTanya writes that in order to sanctify Hashem’s Name, it is not necessary to…

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והאלקים נסה את אברהם ויאמר אליו אברהם ויאמר הנני

G-d tested Avraham and said to him, “Avraham,” and he replied, “Here I am.” (22:1)

Hashem called to Avraham Avinu and the Patriarch’s immediate response was, Hineni, “Here I am.” Hashem told him, “By your life, with that very expression (hineni), I will issue a reward to your descendants,” as it says, Hineni, mamtir lechem min ha’Shomayim, “Behold! I will rain down for you bread from Heaven” (Shemos 16:4). In another place, Chazal teach that the actual manna was in the merit of Moshe Rabbeinu’s response, Hineni, when Hashem called out to him from the s’neh, burning bush (Shemos 2:4). We see from here the incredible value of, and merit derived, from saying (and meaning),…

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ויאמר אבי ויאמר הנני בני

And he (Yitzchak) said, “Father,” and he (Avraham) said, “Here I am, my son.” (22:7)

The dialogue between Yitzchak (Avinu) and Avraham Avinu seems superfluous. What does this exchange between father and child add to the narrative? The Melitzer Rebbe, Shlita, explains that when a Jew is in distress, when he is undergoing a physical, emotional or spiritual hardship, all he needs to do is cry out, “Abba, Tatte!” The cry should emanate from the innermost recesses of his being. When one does this sincerely, Hashem responds, Hineni, “I am here, my son.” Furthermore, even if a Jew is unable to articulate his request properly, to convey the hardship that is overtaking and overwhelming him,…

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ויאמר ד' אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך

Hashem said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house.” (12:1)

This is our introduction to Avraham Avinu: no biography; no family lineage; no prior history. Whatever we know about the first Patriarch is from Chazal. Even Moshe Rabbeinu’s birth and genealogy are recorded. Why not that of the father of our nation? Avraham’s father was Terach, an idolater, who was so committed to his pagan beliefs that he informed on his son to the evil Nimrod. Had Hashem not provided a miracle for Avraham, he would have been immolated in a fiery cauldron. Avraham’s wife, Sarah Imeinu, was Terach’s granddaughter, whom he had raised after the untimely death of her…

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ויבא הפליט ויגד לאברם העברי

Then there came the fugitive and told Avram, the Ivri. (14:13)

The term Ivri (translated as Hebrew, or “to one side”) is applied only to Avraham Avinu. It is written concerning him only once in the Torah, with regard to the fugitive whom Rashi teaches was none other than Og, the future king of Bashan, enemy of the Jewish People. Og hoped (or assumed) that nothing would stand in the way of Avraham rescuing Lot, who had been taken captive. Thus, he would be killed in the war. Once Avraham was out of the picture, Og would be free to marry his widow, Sarah Imeinu. Two questions are glaring. Why does…

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אל תירא אברם אנכי מגן לך

Fear not, Avram, I am a shield for you. (15:1)

We are referred to as Bnei Avraham Avinu, children of the Patriarch Avraham, because we inherited from the father of our people a national character trait. The Chiddushei HaRim writes that the term Magen Avraham, shield of Avraham, is a guarantee from Hashem that the nekudah, characteristic, which defined Avraham would be bequeathed to each and every one of his descendants. The Patriarch was referred to as Avraham HaIvri, because he stood his ground on one eiver, side, while the rest of the world was on the other side. This applies to Avraham’s ability to withstand societal coercion, family pressure…

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והאמין בד' ויחשביה לו לצדקה

And he trusted in Hashem, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (15:6)

Avraham Avinu was rishon v’rosh l’maaminim, first and foremost of the believers in Hashem. Discovering on his own that this world did not just happen and that every moment of its existence – and the existence of every creation – is providentially guided by Hashem, he devoted his life to spreading this concept to a world to whom this idea was foreign. His descendants, the Jewish People, have maintained his teachings with emunah in Hashem, the pre-emanate foundation of our dogma. Throughout (what presented themselves as) the worst moments in our tumultuous history, we have continued and maintained our faith…

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ותאמר שרי אל אברם חמסי עליך

Sarai said to Avram, “The outrage against me is due to You!” (16:5)

A perfunctory reading of the pesukim, which details Sarah Imeinu’s relinquishing her maidservant, Hagar, to Avraham Avinu for the purpose of establishing posterity, followed by her dismissing Hagar from her home, when her insolence became too much to overlook, is misguiding. So much depth is contained in these parshiyos, with every action of the Avos and Imahos, Patriarchs and Matriarchs, steeped in the highest esoteric meanings and secrets, that one is impelled to study every word, every lesson, every nuance, in order to simply scratch the surface of the narrative. Let us focus on one lesson as seen through the…

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אלה תולדות נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדורותיו

These are the offspring of Noach – Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. (6:9)

A well-known debate exists among the sages concerning the term “generations” as it relates to Noach: Was he righteous only in the context of his generation, which was evil? Or, alternatively, even in his evil generation surrounded by moral corruption, he was able to remain righteous. Certainly, in the generation of Avraham Avinu, he would have been righteous. In other words, how would Noach have fared in Avraham’s generation, which was on a much higher plateau? The question is obvious: What provoked the sages, who viewed Noach in a less-than-favorable manner, to state: “Had he lived in the generation of…

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