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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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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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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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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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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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ובן שמונת ימים ימול לכם כל זכר לדורתכם

At the age of eight days, every male among you shall be circumcised throughout your generations. (17:12)

The following incident, which occurred about two hundred years ago with the saintly Chasam Sofer, gives us a glimpse into the extraordinary greatness of the man who is responsible for saving Hungarian Jewry from the tentacles of the Haskalah, Enlightenment. The Chasam Sofer was not only the leading posek, halachic arbiter, of his day, but also a holy and righteous Torah giant, who obviously was as comfortable in the Heavenly sphere as he was in the mundane world. The story is cited by Horav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, zl, who heard it from the son-in-law of the Rav of Kashua, a…

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ותקח שרי אשת אברם את הגר המצרית שפחתה... ותתן אתה לאברם... ותהר ותקל גברתה בעיניה. ותעניה שרי ותברח מפניה... ויאמר לה מלאך ד' שובי אל גברתך והתעני תחת ידיה

So Sarai, Avram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maidservant… and gave her to Avram… she conceived… her mistress was lowered in her esteem… and Sarai dealt harshly with her, so she fled from her… and an angel of Hashem said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her domination.” (16:3,4,6,9)

The narrative concerning Sarah Imeinu and Avraham Avinu regarding Hagar, followed by Sarah’s anger, Hagar’s running away, and the angel’s instruction that she return, even if it meant submitting to Sarah’s domination, is confounding. Clearly, the profundity escapes the superficial reading of the story. Sarah has been recognized in our sacred tradition as a woman who represents the epitome of all good and noble virtues. To think that all this goodness dissipated when Hagar conceived and gave birth to Yishmael, especially when it was Sarah’s idea that Avraham take her on as an additional wife, is unacceptable. Furthermore, if Sarah…

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ואברם כבד מאד במקנה בכסף ובזהב

Now Avram was very laden with livestock, silver and gold. (13:2)

The mere mention of the word Ruzhin conjures up images of wealth and royalty. Indeed, the saintly Ruzhiner Rebbe, zl, was a legend in his own time. Everything about him, from his clothes to his living quarters to his total demeanor was resplendent with wealth and monarchy. Nonetheless, he was regarded as one of the greatest tzaddikim, righteous leaders, of his time. The greatest gedolim, Torah giants, of his generation would travel for weeks just to spend a brief visit with him. They viewed him as a Heavenly agent, dispatched to this world on a Divine mission to reach out…

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לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך... ואעשך לגוי גדול

Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house… and I will make you a great nation. (12:1,2)

The Torah begins its introduction to the life of Avraham Avinu with Hashem’s command to him to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s home. No other introduction describes the Patriarch, his qualities, ethical and spiritual character and achievements up until this time. Conversely, concerning Noach, the Torah writes about his righteousness and perfection, his family and the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of the society in which he lived. It is almost as if Avraham Avinu’s spiritual persona and his moral compass were of no consequence concerning his role in the formation of our beliefs and his rise to…

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ואנשי סדם רעים וחטאים לד' מאד

Now, the people of Sodom were wicked and sinful toward Hashem. (13:13)

Every once in a while, I like to veer from the recurrent themes of our commentary and digress with an exposition that has an esoteric Chassidic slant to it, especially if it presents the message of the pasuk in a totally new and positive light. The seudas Melaveh Malkah, meal bidding farewell to the Shabbos Queen, holds great significance in Jewish tradition. While it is true that it seems to have taken on a greater celebratory life in Chassidic circles, it does not mean that it has any less significance in other Orthodox circles. After spending an entire day immersed…

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