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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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וישא לוט את עיניו וירא את כל ככר הירדן... ויסע לוט מקדם

So Lot raised his eyes and saw the entire plain of Jordan… and Lot journeyed from the east. (13:10,11)

Rashi (quoting the Midrash) explains that Lot was not simply distancing himself from Avraham Avinu in a geographical sense, but was actually distancing himself m’Kadmono shel Olam, the Ancient One of the world (kedem can also be understood as “before” i.e., ancient one), Hashem Yisborach. Lot separated himself from Avraham and everything he represented, saying, “I want neither Avraham nor his G-d.” Chazal attribute this declaration to Lot. It is a strong statement, especially since Lot did not have a history of harboring any negativity towards his uncle, Avraham, or Avraham’s G-d, Hashem. On the contrary, we see Lot prepared…

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וילך אברם כאשר דבר אליו ד' וילך אתו לוט

So Avram went as Hashem had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. (12:4)

Lot was Avraham Avinu’s nephew, whom the Patriarch took in and supported following the untimely death of his brother, Haran, at the hands of Nimrod. Nimrod had his followers throw Avraham into a fiery furnace. He challenged Haran to choose between Nimrod and Avraham. Haran wanted to “hedge” his bets, first waiting to see what would happen to Avraham before he made his choice. If Avraham would emerge from the furnace unscathed, then Haran would support him. If Avraham would suffer a tragic death, then Haran was not interested in adding to the toll. He would then support Nimrod. When…

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לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך

Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house. (12:1)

Rashi adds L’hanaasecha u’l’tovascha, “for your pleasure and your good.” Hashem telling Avraham to pick himself up, leave his home and family, and uproot himself and his wife to a destination that has yet to be “determined” is far from pleasureful and good. The pleasure is serving Hashem; the good is following Hashem’s command. One would be hard-pressed to find anything positive about leaving, unless, of course, one is leaving a miserable place, which was the case in Avraham Avinu’s circumstances. Imrei Shamai cites an incident that occurred concerning Horav Nochum, zl, m’Tchernobel which may be extrapolated to explain how…

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אל תירא אברם אנכי מגן לך. שכרך הרבה מאד.

Fear not, Avram, I am a shield for you. Your reward shall be very great. (15:1)

The words, “Your reward shall be very great,” imply that not only is a reward waiting for Avraham Avinu, but the reward that had normally been stored away on his behalf was not diminished as a result of the miracles which were wrought for him. Why is this? Yaakov Avinu feared that his z’chusim, merits, would be diminished as a result of Hashem’s saving him from Eisav’s reach. Why should Avraham be different? Indeed, is this not what reward is all about? Horav Yisrael Salanter, zl, quoted by Horav Boruch Dov Povarsky, Shlita, compares this world to an upscale restaurant…

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אם מחוט ועד שרוך נעל ואם אקח מכל אשר לך ולא תאמר אני העשרתי את אברם.

I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap of what is yours; you shall not say, “It is I who made Avram rich.” (14:23)

Avraham Avinu refused to accept any material gifts from the king of Sodom. He was not interested in the pagan patting himself on the back knowing that he had increased Avraham’s wealth. Yet, we do not find this same attitude when Pharaoh offered gifts. Avraham readily accepted them. Furthermore, when Avraham had an incident with Avimelech, in which the king sought to assuage his guilt, he, too, gave Avraham gifts, which the Patriarch also accepted. Why did he refuse the gifts from the Sodomite king, yet accept the gifts proffered by Pharaoh and Avimelech? Horav Baruch Dov Povarsky, Shlita, explains…

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ויבא הפליט ויגד לאברם העברי

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

Avraham Avinu was not the first righteous person to believe in and follow Hashem. He was the first one whom Hashem chose to be the progenitor of His great nation, Klal Yisrael. Shem ben Noach is referred to as a Kohen l’Keil Elyon, Priest to the G-d on High. That seems to be a distinguished reference. Yet, Hashem passed him over for Avraham. Why? Shem was always righteous. He assisted his father in building the Teivah, Ark, and devoted his life to solitude, removing himself from society. The problem is that after witnessing the destruction of humanity and spending an…

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הפרד נא מעלי

Let us separate. (13:9)

The question is well-known. Avraham Avinu reached out to an entire pagan world in order to teach the people the verities of monotheism. He converted many. His nephew and close disciple, Lot, was one of these many souls whom Avraham brought closer to Hashem. Yet, when Lot manifested an attitude that was inappropriate; when his ethical standards came into opposition with those of Avraham, the Patriarch bid him, “Good day,” and separated himself from him. Why did Avraham have patience for everyone (certainly his pagan candidates left much to be desired), but not Lot? Why was Avraham so firm in…

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ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן

And the souls they made in Charan. (12:5)

Our Patriarch spent his entire adult life devoted to outreach. Wherever they traveled, and when they finally settled, Avraham and Sarah were fountains of chesed and lovingkindness in a world beset with paganism and hedonism. Avraham Avinu is referred to as the amud hachesed, pillar of kindness, and rightfully so, having spent his entire life reaching out to a pagan world, both materially and spiritually. Chesed is a wonderful and vital character trait. Our world functions on chesed, both in the religious and secular communities. It is the one character trait upon which everyone seems to agree. We have all…

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זאת בריתי אשר תשמרו ביני וביניכם ובין זרעך אחריך המול לכם כל זכר

This is My Covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your descendants after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. (17:10)

In addressing the mitzvah of Bris Milah, the Sefer HaChinuch writes: “One root reason for this precept is that Hashem wished to affix in the people that He set apart to be called by His Name a permanent sign on their bodies to distinguish them physically from the other nations. Just as they are differentiated in their spiritual form, their purpose and way in the world not being the same, their physical differentiation sets them apart as it constitutes the perfection of their physical form. Hashem Yisborach desired to refine the physical character of His chosen people, and He wanted…

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