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“And you did not withhold your son, your only one (son).” (22:16)

Avraham is commended for his devotion to Hashem in standing ready to perform every request made of him. He was even prepared to sacrifice his “only son,” Yitzchak, to conform to the will of Hashem. It seems strange that he is praised for not acceding to his parental emotions, rather than for his positive affirmation of Hashem’s will. Imagine giving someone a bag of precious diamonds. One would assume that the recipient would thank the benefactor for giving the gift, rather than for not withholding it. Why is Avraham not lauded for his positive orientation? Horav Mordechai Pogremonski z.l., explains…

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“And Hashem opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” (21:19)

The Midrash derives from this pasuk that everyone is “blind” until Hashem ultimately “opens their eyes.” This means that Hashem did not suddenly create a new well or transfer it from another place. It was present the entire time that Hagar was there, but she was not “permitted” to see it until Hashem “opened her eyes.” The Sfas Emes cites his grandfather, the Chidushei Ha’Rim, who asserts that everyone’s truly essential needs are provided for him. Indeed, the fulfillment of his needs is within the grasp of each individual, but he does not have the ability to recognize this reality…

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“For she said, ‘Let me not see the death of the child’, and she sat at a distance, lifted her voice and wept…. ‘Fear not for Hashem has listened to the cry of the young boy because he is there.” (21:16,17)

The angel told Hagar not to worry, for Hashem had listened to the child. The Torah seems to imply that Hashem listened only to Yishmael, not to Hagar. Why were her cries ignored?  Is there a more sensitive cry than a mother’s anguished plea for the life of her child? Horav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, responds that the answer lies in the text of the pasuk. Hashem answered Yishmael, “because he is there”. He was praying for himself, not for anyone else.  This is consistent with the words of Chazal that Hashem listens to the prayers of someone who is sick…

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“And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had born unto Avraham making sport.” (21:9)

Rashi explains that the term “making sport” denotes idol-worship. The question which confronts us upon reading the narrative is: Why was Sarah so inflexible regarding Yishmael’s iniquity? She noticed Yishmael “making sport,” i.e. worshipping idols and she immediately proceeded to request that Avraham drive him from their home.  This attitude does not seem to be typical of Sarah Imeinu, who was noted for her proselytizing efforts on behalf of the One G-d. She worked side by side with her husband, Avraham, to inspire a world of non-believers to believe in the Almighty.  Her compassion, understanding, and patience were exemplary in…

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“Let a little water now be taken and wash your feet.” (18:4)

The pasuk implies that Avraham sent an agent (Yishmael) to bring the water. Rashi states that Avraham should have personally attended to the guests. As a result of his personal non-involvement, when Hashem responded to Avraham’s descendants, He also sent an agent (Moshe) to give water to them.  Why is this? The act of chesed, kindness, was performed, albeit through an agent. Why then should there be negative repercussions? The Chofetz Chaim  offers two insights. First, it is always more propitious to personally attend to the mitzvah, rather than to delegate it to an intermediary. Second, it is a greater…

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