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Vayera 5776

Vayeira (Genesis 18-22 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Our Sages teach us that the actions of our forefathers Abraham (Avraham), Isaac (Yitzchak) and Jacob (Ya'akov) are signs for us. They are our role models. Avraham was the paradigm for hachansas orchim, hospitality. As a rule, the Torah is extremely concise, but in this section the Torah describes the small details of Avraham's behavior with his guests. Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, the Chofetz Chaim, wrote that this is to teach us the importance of hospitality.

Avraham was very old and had just undergone circumcision. Although he was in great pain, he nevertheless sat by the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day, hoping to see a sojourner whom he could invite to his home. We learn from this the fundamental principle of appreciating guests and inviting guests even when it is difficult.

In Pirke Avos 1:5 we read, "The poor shall be members of your family." The Chofetz Chaim explains that there are those who do not invite guests into their homes with the excuse that they do not have special food or that their homes are too small. Our Sages therefore tell us that we should treat the poor as members of our own family and invite them under all circumstances.

Most important, the host should serve his guest cheerfully. It is better to serve a guest vegetables with a smile, than to give him a steak with a frown! A host must greet his guest in a friendly manner and accord him honor. Also, a person should be careful not to contradict or correct his guest unnecessarily, for that may cause him anguish (Chesed L'Avraham 8:15, 8:17).

When Avraham invited the three guests for a meal, he said "Let now be fetched a little water, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree" (Gen. 18:4). We learn from here the need to be sensitive to our guest's needs -- whether it be to wash up, a bed to rest or food.

The Torah writes, "And I (Avraham) will fetch a morsel of bread and refresh your hearts" (Gen. 18:5). We learn from this to immediately offer some light refreshment to stay hunger until the meal can be prepared or served. Also, we see here Avraham's strategy to get his guests to stay if they did not want to bother him -- first he offered just a little bread; once they agreed to stay, he prepared an elaborate feast. (Rabbi Akiva Sofer in Daas Sofer, on this verse.)

"And Avraham ran to the herd, and fetched a tender and good calf, and gave it to the lad (Ishmael), and he hurried to prepare it" (Gen. 18:7). The Chofetz Chaim writes that we learn from this verse that not only should one do chesed (kindness) oneself, but he should also educate and train his children to acts of kindness. (Ahavas Chesed, part 2, ch. 3).

Even though Avraham had many servants and was suffering from his recent circumcision, nonetheless he exerted himself to fulfill the mitzvah of serving guests. We should learn from Avraham to do ourselves all that we can for our guests. (Me'am Lo'ez on this verse.)

It is important to keep focus that one should perform acts of kindness for the benefit of the recipient, and not simply for the pleasure he himself derives from them!

While we have obligations as a host, there are obligations upon the guest as well.

  1. A guest must be careful not to do anything that will annoy his host.
  2. A guest should not invite someone else to his host's home without the consent of the host
  3. A guest should not give any food from the table to the host's children without the host's permission
  4. A guest should be careful not to ask his host unnecessary personal questions about his business or belongings, or any other questions that might be unpleasant for his host to answer.
  5. A guest should appreciate that his host has spent time, money and effort on his behalf. He should always feel that every effort his host made was for the guest alone.
  6. A guest should show respect toward his host. He should also show that he cares about the host's children.
  7. Following his stay, a guest should write a letter to his host expressing his gratitude.
  8. A guest should not make a nuisance of himself by staying too long or by coming too often.

(the above excerpted from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)


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Torah Portion of the week

Vayera, Genesis 18:1 - 22:24

Avraham, on the third day after his brit mila, sits outside his tent looking for guests to extend his hospitality. While talking with the Almighty, he sees three visitors (actually angels of the Almighty). Avraham interrupts his conversation with the Almighty to invite them to a meal. One angel informs him that in a year's time, Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son, Yitzhak (Isaac).

God tells Avraham that He is going to destroy Sodom because of its absolute evil (the city is the source of the word sodomy). Avraham argues with God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people in Sodom. Avraham loses for the lack of a quorum. Lot (Avraham's nephew) escapes the destruction with his two daughters.

Other incidents: Avimelech, King of the Philistines, wants to marry Sarah (Avraham's wife), the birth of Yitzhak, the eviction of Hagar (Avraham's concubine) and Ishmael. Avimelech and Avraham make a treaty at Beersheva. Avraham is commanded to take up his son, Isaac, as an offering "on one of the mountains" (Akeidat Yitzhak). Lastly, the announcement of the birth of Rivka (Rebecca), the future wife of Yitzhak.

Do you want to know the reward for listening to the command of the Almighty? This is what the Almighty told Avraham: "... I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice."

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah relates that when the matriarch, Sarah, was told that she would bear a child at the age of 90, she laughed "inwardly," thinking, "How can I bear a child at my old age?" God then said to Avraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? Is there anything that is beyond God?" Avraham reprimanded Sarah, but "Sarah denied, saying 'I did not laugh' for she was frightened." Avraham then said to her, "No, you laughed indeed" (Gen. 18:12-14).

The Rabbi of Gur says that it is impossible to think that Sarah lied. The Midrash tells us that Sarah was totally free of sin (Bereishis Rabbah 58:1). He, therefore, interprets the verse as saying not that Sarah denied, but that Sarah was in denial.

Her disbelief that she could carry a child was "inward" -- deep in the recesses of her subconscious. Sarah was not even aware of this thought. Only God Who knows a person's innermost thoughts and feelings, was aware of it. When Avraham reprimanded her for this thought, Sarah could not even imagine that she could have harbored disbelief of God's omnipotence. Her reverence of God was so great that a thought such as this was beyond her.

The verse thus reads, "Sarah was in denial because she was so God-fearing." Sarah was certain that she was speaking the truth when she said, "I did not laugh." Sarah did not deny or lie. She had no access to her subconscious.

If a person cannot be aware that he is in denial, how can we protect ourselves from being blind to reality? There is one way -- by listening to teachers and sincere friends who are objective and can see that which we cannot see.

Candle Lighting Times

October 30
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:12
Guatemala 5:16 - Hong Kong 5:29 - Honolulu 5:38
J'Burg 6:04 - London 4:19 - Los Angeles 5:44
Melbourne 7:34 - Mexico City 5:45 - Miami 6:23
New York 6:07 - Singapore 6:32 - Toronto 5:53

Quote of the Week

Reputation is valuable,
but character is priceless



In Loving Memory of

Oscar Boruchin



With Deep Appreciation to

Dr. Norman &
Lee Block



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