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ויהי אחר הדברים האלה והאלקים נסה אברהם

And it happened after these things that G-d tested Avraham. (22:1)

The Akeidah, Binding of Yitzchak, is considered the seminal nisayon, trial, with which Hashem challenged Avraham Avinu. The question is obvious: All one has to do is peruse Jewish history to see that mesiras nefesh, for a Jew to sacrifice his life, has almost been a way of life, a culture with which we have been inculcated. Veritably, all instances of mesiras nefesh nurture their strength from Akeidas Yitzchak, but still, our ancestry did not always have Neviim, prophets, and Torah leaders who inspired and guided them concerning relinquishing their lives al Kiddush Hashem. Avraham Avinu received his mission from…

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עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלקים אתה

Now I know that you are a G-d-fearing Man. (22:12)

Chazal (Sanhedrin 39:13) distinguish between the level of yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, evinced by Avraham Avinu and Ovadyahu. Concerning Avraham it is written y’rei Elokim atah, you are G-d fearing, while concerning Ovadyahu the Navi writes, Va’yaar Hashem meod, he feared Hashem very much.” The added word, meod, describing Ovadyahu’s yiraas Shomayim, takes him “over the top” and presents him as being on a higher level of yiraas Shomayim than even our first Patriarch. In 1920, Yeshivas Slabodka was forced to relocate to Nicoliav, where Horav Mordechai Dov Eidelberg, zl, served as Rav. It was Shabbos Parashas Naso and…

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לך לך מארצך

Go for yourself, from your land. (12:1)

The purpose of the life of Avraham Avinu was to set the tenor for how a Jew should live. His life story begins with Lech lecha, “Go for yourself.” He was instructed to separate himself from the society at large and forge a new approach to living – the Jewish/Torah way of life. What best characterizes this way of life? Horav Moshe Eismann, Shlita, relates a short vignette which, by extrapolation, can serve as the guiding principle by which we are to live in the context of a society that is totally foreign (or should be) to our standard of…

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ואעשך לגוי גדול ואברכך ואגדלה שמך והיה ברכה

And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (12:2)

Rashi explains the three terms/blessings of this pasuk; “And I will make you a great nation”: we refer to this when we say in Shemoneh Esrai – Elokai Avraham, G-d of Avraham; “And I will bless you” – refers to Elokai Yitzchak, “And I will make your name great,” alludes to Elokai Yaakov. Rashi adds, “One might think that they conclude the blessing with all of them, i.e., Elokai Avraham, Yitzchak, v’Yaakov.” To teach otherwise, the pasuk says, V’he’yeih brachah, “And you will be a blessing.” B’cha chosmin v’lo ba’haem, “With you, Avraham, they conclude the blessing and not with…

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ויאמר אברם אל לוט אל נא תהי מריבה ביני ובינך ובין רעי ובין רעיך כי אנשים אחים אנחנו

And Avram said to Lot, “Please let there not be a fight between me and you and between my shepherd and your shepherds, because we are brothers.” (13:8)

Klal Yisrael is destined to experience various galusim, exiles. The last exile is America, a country that has been good to us, despite its permissive and pervasive society. We are allowed to practice our religion, build mekomos HaTorah, institutes of Torah – schools, shuls which follow their unique Torah traditions. We need not fear a pogrom. While this does not mean that everything is great, it just shows that, in comparison to the previous exiles in our tumultuous history, America is by far the easiest. Yet, it is called galus, because we must contend with an almost constant attack on…

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ויולד נח שלשה בנים את שם את חם ואת יפת

Noach begot three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafes. (6:10)

Noticeably, Cham, who was Noach’s youngest son, is placed out of sequence. One would expect the three sons to be placed in the Torah in accordance with their birth order. In a response to a query posed by his chassidim, the Kotzker Rebbe, zl, addressed this question. Apparently, one of his chassidim fell prey to the external winds of change, and, in a short time, he left the fold. Since he had originally been one of them, the chassidim attempted to persuade him to return. When talking failed to effect a change in his behavior, they decided, or so they…

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ותשחת הארץ לפני האלקים ותמלא הארץ חמס

Now the earth had become corrupt before G-d, and the earth became filled with robbery. (6:11)

The Baal HaTurim writes that the gematria, numerical equivalent, of chamas (108) is the same as mei Noach, the waters of Noach – the Flood. The Aderes (commentary to the Baal HaTurim) asks: What relationship is there between chamas, theft, and the Flood? Where is the middah k’neged middah, measure for measure? (Hashem’s punishment has a distinct relationship to/similarity with the sin.) He quotes Chazal (Sanhedrin, Perek Chelek 108a) who teach, B’roschin kilkelu, with “heat” they created a spiritual blemish (sinned), with roschin, hot water (the Flood waters were unusually hot). Roschin alludes to their immoral behavior, falling prey to…

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כי מלאה הארץ חמס מפניהם והנני משחיתם את הארץ

Now the land was filled with robbery, and behold I shall destroy them from the earth. (6:13)

Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 31:5) distinguish between gezel and chamas. While both relieve the victim of his possessions, gezel refers to robbery of an item worth at least a shavah perutah, value of a perutah (smallest coin). Chamas, however, refers to robbery of an item which does not have the value of a perutah. This is how the people of that generation stole from one another. They came upon a man selling vegetables in the market. One by one the people would take less than the value of a perutah of a vegetable, until it was all gone. In other words,…

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כי אתך ראיתי צדיק לפני בדור הזה

For I have seen you as righteous in this generation. (7:1)

The Zohar HaKadosh (Zohar Chadash Noach 29a) relates that, when Noach exited the Teivah, Ark, and saw a world destroyed, he became morose and cried out to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, You are called Merciful. You should have had mercy on the world.” Hashem replied, “Roeh shatya, foolish shepherd – now you daven? You should have davened when I told you, ‘For I have seen you as righteous in this generation.’” Why, indeed, did Noach not pray that the Flood be rescinded and the world not be destroyed? Horav Tzvi Kushelevsky, Shlita, explains that Noach believed that the world…

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ויאמר ארור כנען עבד עבדים יהיה לאחיו

And he said, “Cursed is Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” (9:25)

Cham committed an unspeakable act against his father, Noach, and, in turn, Noach cursed his fourth son, Canaan. Rashi explains that Noach intimated to Cham, “You caused me to be unable to have a fourth son who would serve me. May your fourth son be cursed by serving the offspring of these greater ones: Shem and Yafes (for now they will have to care for me). The term eved avadim, a slave of slaves, requires clarification. After all, a slave is a slave. What difference does it make who his master is? Horav Aryeh Leib Heyman, zl, explains that Noach…

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