Category Archives: Vayera

Sacrifice (Vayera)

Sacrifice (Vayera)

For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice — no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service. -John Burroughs

In the middle of the synagogue service, a man quietly walks up to his Rabbi who is sitting at the front of the synagogue and admits to having committed a horrible, highly embarrassing sin, and that he is now seeking to repent. The Rabbi looks at him, thinks, and then tells him to go to the middle of the synagogue, bang on the table, and publicly declare to the entire congregation his sin.

“Here? Now?” the man asks, his face ashen.

“Yes,” the Rabbi declares firmly. “It’s the only way to repent.”

The man looks incredulous, but he trusts his Rabbi and he deeply needs to repent. He walks to the middle of the synagogue as if it were a death sentence. He is about to bang on the table when a hand grabs his shoulder. It’s the Rabbi.

“That’s far enough,” the Rabbi tells the man. “That’s all you need to do. You needed to demonstrate that you were willing. That’s your repentance.”

For me, one of the more theologically challenging narratives in the Bible is God’s apparent command to Abraham to bring his son Isaac as a sacrifice. The Sages throughout history have praised Abraham’s complete devotion to God and willingness to sacrifice his long-sought and beloved son.

Nonetheless, there remain troubling aspects. Did God truly desire Abraham to kill Isaac? It doesn’t seem likely. Did Abraham misunderstand such a significant divine communication from God? Also, hard to imagine. Did God never intend for Abraham to carry through with the sacrifice but purposely mislead Abraham? It’s not clear from the plain text.

The Bechor Shor on Genesis 22:12 suggests that there was some level of purposeful misdirection on God’s part. He explains that God knows the heart of every person and He knew very well that Abraham was so completely devoted to God, that he would even sacrifice his son, the very son God had promised him, if that was God’s command. But it seems that not only did God want Abraham, Isaac, and us, their descendants to see that he was willing to make such a sacrifice to God, but He also wanted the nations of the world to realize Abraham’s commitment to God.

The misdirection comes in the Hebrew word that God used here for “sacrifice” – Olah. In the common language of sacrifices, an Olah, translated as an Elevation Sacrifice, is an animal sacrifice which is completely consumed by the fire of the Altar. However, in its simplest meaning, Olah means to elevate. The Bechor Shor suggests that God never intended Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but He did want him to think that He wanted him to sacrifice Isaac. It was a test that Abraham passed with flying colors. God wanted Abraham to elevate Isaac, to bring him up to the altar he built on Mount Moriah without harming him, but He also wanted Abraham to demonstrate his willingness to follow God’s directive, as excruciating, as incomprehensible, and as sacrificial as it might seem.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

On the engagement of our son, Elchanan, to Zavi Lava. Mazal Tov!

The Cost of Missed Opportunities (Vayera)

The Cost of Missed Opportunities (Vayera)

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

God decides he’s going to destroy the evil city of Sodom and its four other sister cities. However, He feels he needs to inform Abraham about it before He does so. What ensues is one of the most bizarre biblical bargaining sessions that were ever conducted. Abraham questions God and then suggests God should spare the cities if He finds 50 righteous people there (ten per city). God agrees. Immediately, Abraham, perhaps sensing that God knows there aren’t 50 righteous people, asks God to spare the cities if he finds just 45 people (nine per city). God agrees. Abraham pushes again and asks for 40 people to be the measure. God agrees. Abraham, on a roll, asks for 30 people. God agrees again. Abraham asks for 20 and God agrees. Finally, Abraham asks for ten, God agrees, but perhaps sensing that he can’t push his luck any further, Abraham stops.

In the end, there are less than ten righteous people in the entire Sodomite metropolis. God sends angels to extricate Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family from Sodom and proceeds to rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom in one of the more dramatic and apocalyptic scenes of the Torah.

The Meshech Chochma points out an interesting inconsistency in the progression of the bargaining. When God agrees to spare Sodom if there are 45 righteous, He says “I won’t destroy.” When he refers to the 40 and 30, He says “I won’t do.” When he refers to the 20 and 10, He reverts back to saying “I won’t destroy.”

The Meshech Chochma understands that when God says He “won’t destroy,” it means he won’t destroy, but He will punish. That makes sense for a city or a metropolis which lays claims to only 10 or 20 righteous people. When God says He “won’t do,” it means he won’t even punish, if the cities have a more substantive cadre of 30 or 40 righteous. But why does God opt for the harsher option of “won’t destroy,” meaning He will punish if there’s a more substantial 45 righteous?

The Meshech Chochma explains that the harsher punishment is because they were so close to salvation, they just needed one person for each of the five cities to complete the count of ten righteous people per city. Just one person. If one person would have decided to do the right thing, they all would have been saved. Because one person missed the opportunity, God punishes not only for the general evil and sin they’re guilty of but also for the missed opportunity.

The Meshech Chochma teaches that God doesn’t only punish for our sins. He also punishes for missing out on the positive things we could have done, spoken or even thought instead of the sin.

May we always grab and create opportunities to think, speak and do well.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the people of Israel under fire. May this pass quickly and may we finally end these attacks.

Two Types of Joys of Wealth (Vayera)

Two Types of Joys of Wealth (Vayera)

This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor. -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

At the ripe old age of ninety years old, our matriarch Sarah gives birth to Isaac. The name Isaac in Hebrew is Yitzchak and means “will laugh.” Sarah is basically saying God has made me laugh (though there are numerous other interpretations as to what she means).

The Berdichever on the verse takes the opportunity to expound on bounty, joy and God’s blessings in our life. His first point is that whatever comes easy, we have little appreciation for. Had Sarah been blessed with a child in the normal fashion and at the normal age, her level of joy would not have come close to what she experienced in her old age. In general, when God sends us challenges (and make no mistake, they are from God) and then saves us from those very same problems, we then understand, or have the hope of better understanding, that it’s all from God.

Were the very thing we wanted and hoped for have come right away, we would be less likely to discern God’s hand behind the scenes. We would take it for granted that such blessings are natural, the way of the world; that there is no intelligence or cognizance in the events in our life. That it was happenstance, luck or the direct and exclusive results of our own efforts.

The Berdichever further elaborates that even when we understand and believe that everything is from God, there are two very different levels of appreciating the bounty He bestows upon us.

The first, basic level of joy over wealth is simply to enjoy it. We make ourselves happy with the bounty itself. It makes us happy to be so blessed whether it’s in health, material possessions, family, career or any of the other meaningful things in our lives.

However, the second, the more refined and elevated level of joy over wealth, is reserved for the wise and insightful who understand the truth behind any blessings that we receive. They comprehend and intuit that everything is truly from God; and when God bestows a blessing upon us, it is God who is taking an interest, an involvement in the most minute aspects of our lives and demonstrating a great love for us. There is no greater joy than to realize that we are the beneficiaries of God’s divine love and detailed attention and providence.

This joyous realization in turn, creates an obligation on our part. Just as God’s providence is over us continually, every moment of every day of our lives, without leaving us even for a second, so too, our commitment to God, our willingness to serve Him likewise should be continuous, without abandoning God even for a moment.

May He continue to rain upon us all the blessings in the world and may we continuously realize it’s from Him and strengthen our ongoing relationship with Him.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To my mother on her big birthday! Mazal Tov!

Punishment for Undue Credit

Punishment for Undue Credit

A man’s pride will humiliate him, but a humble man will obtain honor. -Proverbs 29:23

Anonymous – Camille Flammarion, L’Atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), pp. 163

Many of us may have experienced the annoyance of a friend, a sibling or a colleague, taking credit for something we did, a brilliant idea that we actually suggested first, a beneficial act that we initiated or some other effort where we should really have gotten credit. Conversely, we may have inadvertently taken credit ourselves in such cases, when in truth it was somebody else who was responsible.

Rabbeinu Bechaye in Genesis 19:13 suggests that such crimes stem from undue pride and arrogance, that God doesn’t take kindly to the stealing of “credit,” and that he will punish such wrongdoers by humbling them and thereby teach them some needed humility.

Perhaps surprisingly, he learns this lesson from a poorly phrased comment by God’s angels. The angels were coming to destroy Sodom. They stated “we’re destroying;” when they should have said “God is destroying.” Their initial punishment was that they were not able to leave the place until they admitted that “God sent us to destroy.” Their further punishment was that they were banished from God’s presence for 138 years, for we only see these angels again generations later with the patriarch Jacob.

Even the greatest personalities were guilty of such missteps of arrogance, including Moses, Samuel and Deborah:

  • Moses said: “Whatever is too hard for you to judge, you’ll bring to me.” Punishment: Didn’t know answer to question of the daughters of Zlofhad.
  • Samuel said: “I’m the seer.” Punishment: When came time to anoint the next king, he thought it was Eliav (David’s brother); God reprimands him, saying he’s wrong, that man “sees the eyes, but God sees the heart.”
  • Deborah said: “Until I, Deborah, arose.” Punishment: The divine spirit left her.

Rabbeinu Bechaye concludes that there is a particular danger for anyone who attributes any divine credit and honor to themselves. When we delude ourselves into thinking that we are due honor, when in fact it is God moving the pieces behind the scenes, we are liable to set ourselves up to being humbled in order to correct our mistaken notions.

May we retain our humility and always give credit where credit is due.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Yoni Tocker on his Bar-Mitzvah and all those who deserve the credit for such a beautiful event.

 

 

Bad Examples

Bad Examples

We are too quick to imitate depraved examples. –Juvenal

john_martin_-_sodom_and_gomorrah

The ancient biblical city of Sodom was considered particularly evil. God eventually decides to destroy the city and almost all of its inhabitants. However, before He does so, He notifies our patriarch Abraham. What then ensues is a surreal haggling between God and Abraham as to how many righteous people in Sodom it would take to save the city.

Abraham starts the bidding at fifty people and God agrees. Abraham quickly lowers the bid to forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty and finally ten. God agrees to each of Abraham’s offers. Abraham stops at ten, apparently understanding that he can’t ask for less than ten righteous people to save Sodom. It turns out there aren’t even ten. Sodom is subsequently destroyed in a dramatic telling in Genesis Chapters 18 and 19.

Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 18:1 wonders as to why God informs Abraham of His plans and enters into the bizarre negotiation. Rabbi Hirsch explains that God wanted Abraham to understand and be aware of the evil of Sodom so that Abraham’s descendents should never become like the people of Sodom. They should beware of the horrendous example of those people.

However, the episode also demonstrates Abraham’s love of humanity. It didn’t matter to him how despicable the Sodomites were. They were human beings created in the image of God and he would make every reasonable effort he could, even arguing with God, to save them. Abraham was not an isolationist looking out exclusively for his own interests. He did look out for his family and allies first, but he did not turn a blind eye to the suffering of others.

May we surround ourselves with and look up to good examples.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the memory of Leonard Cohen. His music reached and inspired many.

 

The Paradox of Happiness

 

 Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. -Joseph Addison 

laughing

Based on the biblical accounts, it is easy to imagine the patriarch Isaac as a somber man. This is a great irony, given that his name in Hebrew, Yitzchak, translates as “will laugh.” Isaac’s life is filled with trials: his father is prepared to sacrifice him; he struggles against the farmers of Gerar for possession of wells he dug; his wife and son deceive him, taking advantage of his blindness to steal a blessing; he is disappointed by the wives of one son and sends the other son into exile to search for better wives.

The Sfat Emet in his comments during the year 5643 (1883) digs deeper into the subject of laughter and happiness. He explains that there are two types of laughter and happiness. There is frivolous laughter that is the side-effect of what is at best a superficial happiness or pleasure. Then there is the laughter and happiness of the man who fears God, as Isaac did. When a man fears God exclusively and follows His commands, he fears no man or mortal agency. His laughter is pure and his happiness complete.

May we achieve improved and more meaningful levels of laughter and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To my mom, Tamara and Tiferet –  the birthday girls.

 

Sacred Guests

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayera-sacred-guests/

Baal Haturim Genesis: Vayera

Sacred Guests

A guest never forgets the host who had treated him kindly. -Homer

In some ancient cultures, guests held a sacred and honored role. Once a person entered the tent or home of a host, they were under the host’s protection and cared for in every way.

We see this quite dramatically with Abraham’s wayward nephew, Lot. Lot, apparently attracted to the avarice of the Sodomites, settles his family next to the infamous city. However, he learned at least one thing from Abraham: Hospitality.

When the two disguised angels arrive in Sodom, Lot rushes to greet them and basically forces them to come as guests to his house.

The Baal Haturim on Genesis 18:5 explains that Lot was actually pained when he did not have guests and that the opportunity to host someone gave him great joy.

We see afterwards that Lot takes his hosting responsibility to such an extreme that he is willing to allow his own daughters to be harmed by a mob rather than permit anyone to touch his guests.

I don’t know if we need go to such lengths to make our guests feel comfortable, but there is something special in the bond that is created when people break bread together.

May we have occasion to enjoy both hosting and being hosted by members of our communities.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Adrian Weiszman for spearheading the initiative of organized regular Shabbat meal hosting in our community. For more information contact proyectoshabatuy@gmail.com

Escape de Sodoma

[Translation of Escape from Sodom]

ficción bíblica: Génesis: Vaierá

Traducido del Inglés por Caro Cynovich

Escape de Sodoma

—¡Quítame tu mano de encima! —Edis chilló al Arcángel Mijael.

Mijael no le prestó atención a Edis. Con una resolución inhumana, Mijael tomó las manos de Lot y de su esposa Edis, y se puso a caminar a paso rápido fuera de la ciudad de Sodoma, bajo el cielo oscuro y nublado.

doreSodomlighterEl Arcángel Gabriel estaba haciendo lo mismo con las hijas más jóvenes de Lot. Madis, la mayor de los dos, estaba a su derecha, y Atis, la más joven, a su izquierda. Las niñas estaban tomadas firmemente de la mano, incapaz de escapar de sus garras de hierro e incapaz de hacer otra cosa que mantener el ritmo rápido en el que se movía el ángel.

Las dos hijas mayores de Lot, de pie al lado de sus maridos, miraban con incredulidad mientras la extraña procesión rápidamente se alejaba del patio de la casa de Lot.

—¿A dónde van? —Shutis, la mayor, gritó.

—¡Nos vamos! ¡Ahora! —Lot respondió apresuradamente—. Sodoma será destruida en cualquier momento.

—Sólo tengo que recoger algunas cosas más y ya los alcanzaré —Shutis prometió, mientras se oía a su marido reírse por lo bajo.

—¡No! —Lot dijo determinante—. No hay tiempo. ¡Ven con nosotros ahora mismo o estarás perdida!

—¡Acuérdate de traer mis joyas! —Edis le pidió a su hija, esperanzada.

Shutis rápidamente corrió de vuelta a la casa y se perdió de vista.

—Vamos a destruir toda la llanura —explicó Gabriel en un tono neutral, manteniendo el ritmo rápido.

—Por favor. Por favor, espere al resto de mi familia —le pidió Lot.

—Es demasiado tarde —dijo Gabriel con firmeza—. Ellos están más interesados ​​en sus posesiones materiales que en sus vidas.

—¿De qué estás hablando? —Edis preguntó enojada—. Ellos están por llegar. Las cosas que fueron a buscar son importantes

—No lo entiendes, mujer. Los pecados de estas ciudades son tan grandes que Dios no podía retrasar la destrucción de ellas por más tiempo. Y eso es lo que haremos, las destruiremos. Absolutamente. Nada quedará de lo que se conocía como Sodoma. Si no fuera por el mérito de tu tío Abraham, tú también morirás ahora.

Llegaron a las puertas de la ciudad.

Mijael y Gabriel soltaron simultáneamente a sus cautivos.

Gabriel levantó las manos al cielo. Las nubes oscuras retumbaron. Truenos y relámpagos agrietaron el aire espeso. El cielo estalló como si el fin del mundo hubiera llegado. Del cielo enojado cayeron piedras de fuego y lluvia ácida. Lot y su familia escucharon el pánico y los gritos que venían del interior de la ciudad. La suma de gritos obligó a las hijas de Lot a cubrirse las orejas. Un corrosivo olor a carne quemada llenó el aire.

Mijael habló con la familia de Lot con una voz de trueno que resonó en los cielos.

—¡Escapen por sus vidas! No miren hacia atrás y no paren en ningún lugar en toda la llanura; huyan a la montaña para que no sean destruidos.

Mijael levantó la mano y un rayo de luz surgió de sus dedos. La luz llegó al lado de la montaña. La roca y la tierra explotaron, enviando fragmentos en todas direcciones. La montaña estaba envuelta por una nube de escombros. Después de unos momentos, las cosas se calmaron. Para su asombro, Lot y su familia se vieron los contornos de una carretera. El camino era el camino más recto y más suave que jamás habían visto. Conducía directamente a la montaña – a Abraham.

Lot amaba a su tío, pero no podía regresar a él. A la sombra de su tío él siempre sería menos. El pecador. El malo. Repugnante. Sin valor. Moriría antes de regresar con Abraham. No. Tenía que escapar a otro lugar. Ahora.

Lote cayó de rodillas y suplicó.

—¡Por favor , no! Mi Señor – usted ve, ahora vuestro siervo ha hallado gracia en vuestros ojos, y la misericordia que has tenido conmigo al salvar mi vida fue genial, pero no puedo escapar al monte a menos que el mal se adhiera a mí y yo muera. Mire allí, por favor, aquella ciudad está lo suficientemente cerca para escapar —Lot señaló más arriba en la llanura— y es pequeña —la voz de Lot empezó a romperse—. Voy a huir allí. ¿No es pequeña? – Y voy a vivir.

Mijael se quedó pensativo por un momento y luego respondió:

“He aquí, yo te voy a conceder incluso esto, y no voy a destruir la ciudad de la que me has hablado. Date prisa, escapa hacia allí, porque yo no puedo hacer nada hasta que llegues allí.

Mijael levantó la mano hacia la ciudad que se llamaría Zoar. Luz irradió de su mano y atravesó los campos ondulados de hierba y pasto. En la cuesta arriba a Zoar, Mijael creó un nuevo camino.

Mijael se desvaneció en el aire, mientras que Gabriel continuaba haciendo llover fuego y azufre sobre Sodoma.

El calor detrás de ellos aumentó. Lot agarró a sus hijas y le gritó a Edis:

—Edis, vámonos. Salvemos al menos estas dos niñas.

La familia caminó rápida pero mecánicamente por la colina, a través de una niebla espesa de ceniza. Estaban en shock al no entender lo que estaba ocurriendo.

Las chicas fueron las primeras en empezar a llorar. Ahí empezaron a desacelerar.

Lot continuó tirando a todas de la mano.

—Madis. Atis. Vamos. Debemos seguir avanzando. Y hagas lo que hagas – ¡no miren hacia atrás!

Los lamentos de Sodoma estaban llegando a un tono febril. El olor de fuego y carne quemada era insoportable. Luego los gritos se calmaron. Finalmente todo se quedó en silencio. Un inquietante silencio.

Edis lloraba en quietud, caían las lágrimas en su cara cubierta de hollín. Poco a poco iba repitiendo:

—Mis bebés. Mis pobres bebés.

Miró a Lot, caminando delante de ella con las dos chicas. Su angustia se transformó en confusión y en ira. Se abalanzó sobre Lot, tirándolo al suelo. Le dio un puñetazo en la espalda con los puños.

—¡Es todo por tu culpa! —Edis sollozaba histéricamente—. ¡Mis hijos están muertos! ¡Mis joyas han desaparecido! ¿Por qué tenías que dejar pasar a esos seres? Siempre estás tratando de ser mejor que los demás. ¡Superior ! ¡Tú y tu moralidad! Eres un sucio, sanguijuela lujurioso como todo el mundo. ¡Pero mira lo que has hecho! ¡Mira lo que has hecho!

Madis y Atis rápidamente agarraron a su madre de uno y otro lado y suavemente la separaron de Lot. Lot volvió sobre sus pies y miró tiernamente a Edis.

—Lo siento, Edis, pero no es mi culpa. Los sodomitas eran tan inmorales que era inevitable que fueran castigados. Hice lo que pude, pero no fue suficiente. Los jefes de Sodoma se burlaron y me amenazaron cuando mostré siquiera una pizca de bondad —Lot inclinó la cabeza—. Lo siento por nuestros hijos. Tampoco ellos quisieron escuchar. Lo intentamos.

—¿Lo siento? ¿Intentado ? —preguntó Edis, loco de dolor —. Eres un llorón, excusa de un hombre. Voy a volver a buscarlos.

—Edis —dijo con mucha firmeza Lot, apretando su brazo—. No podemos volver atrás. Ni siquiera podemos mirar hacia atrás ya que seguramente moriríamos.

Instintivamente, Madis y Atis se posicionaron detrás de su madre para evitar que ella diera la vuelta, y para bloquear su visión si eso sucedía.

Edis arrancó bruscamente su brazo del agarre de Lot.

—¿Cómo te atreves a decirme qué hacer? Mi riqueza fue destruida. Mis bebés pueden estar muertos, o podrían estar siguiéndonos a nosotros en este momento, y tú es demasiado cobarde para salvarlos – incluso a dar la vuelta y ver. Voy a ir yo misma si tengo que hacerlo.

—¡Madre! ¡No! —Madis agarró a su madre por la espalda—. ¿No escuchaste al  ángel? Todo el mundo está muerto. Puedo sentir el calor cada vez más cerca. Si no continuamos, si incluso miramos hacia atrás, ¡vamos a morir!

—¿Cómo puedo seguir adelante? —Edis sollozaba incontrolablemente—. Mis hijos están muertos. Mi marido no es un buen marido. ¿A dónde iremos? ¿Qué hay de mi casa, mis joyas, y mis amigos? Tengo que volver .

Edis comenzó a deslizarse fuera del abrazo de Madis. Atis vio el movimiento y trató de agarrar a su madre y bloquear su visión. Pero Edis fue más rápida. Se dio la vuelta, ahora abrazada a cada lado por sus hijas, y echó un vistazo frontal completo en la destrucción de Sodoma.

No podía creer lo que vio. Los campos exuberantes. Las paredes fuertes. Las casas ricas. Los patios coloridos. Todo había sido completamente destruido. Toda la llanura estaba ennegrecida y deformada. Humo negro grueso cubría todo el cielo. El único color era el rojo de las llamas furiosas, consumiendo los restos muertos de una civilización una vez orgullosa.

Entonces comprendió. Ella entiendió que Sodoma había estado llena de maldad. Entendía que ella había sido un participante activo y sabía que ella también merecía morir.

Lágrimas saladas vertieron libremente por su rostro, y se juntaron como una piscina a sus pies.

El cosquilleo comenzó en sus pies y se fueron entumeciendo. La sensación se extendió rápidamente por sus piernas. Edis jadeó por el shock y se miró las piernas. Madis y Atis saltaron hacia atrás y miraron con incredulidad ante lo que parecía ser la sal reemplazando la piel de su madre. Edis pudo degustar la sal en su boca a medida que la metamorfosis se abrió camino hasta su torso. La sensación de horror de Edis se reflejó en los rostros de sus hijas.

—MADRE —gritaron al unísono, agarrándola de nuevo, como si por abrazarla podrían detener el proceso.

Edis tenía tiempo para sólo dos palabras antes de la transformación fuera completa.

—Lo siento —susurró con sus últimas lágrimas.

Y entonces ella era una estatua de sal.

Obra de Moralidad

Netziv Génesis: Vaierá

Obra de Moralidad

“Vamos con precaución a complacer el supuesto de que la moralidad se puede mantener sin la religión. La razón y la experiencia nos impiden esperar que la moralidad nacional pueda prevalecer en la exclusión del principio religioso.” – George Washington

Abraham llega a Grar, tierra de los filisteos con su bella esposa, Sara. Con el fin de protegerse de los hombres violentos, lujuriosos dispuestos a matar a un marido con el fin de reclamar a la esposa, Abraham y Sara asumen la apariencia de hermanos. Abimelec, rey de Grar, toma Sara para sí mismo. Dios interviene, advierte Avimelech en un sueño, Sara se volvió a Abraham y todos continúan con sus vidas interesantes.

Avimelech sin embargo se enfrenta a Abraham y le pregunta por qué mintió sobre su identidad. Abraham le responde que él no vio “temor de Dios” entre los filisteos. (Crónica del principio de Génesis capítulo 20).

El Netziv en Génesis 20:11 declara algo sorprendente. Afirma que los filisteos eran en realidad un pueblo civilizado y moral que en circunstancias normales no capturan a una mujer casada o recurren al asesinato para que puedan reclamarla. Sin embargo, Abraham sintió que su moral era relativista y no absoluta. Que vino de la convención social y no de la creencia, ni someter a sí mismo a la orden divina.

Debido a esto moral “natural,”  Abraham sabía que los filisteos tendrián un tiempo mucho más difícil para resistir la tentación. Sabía que iban a racionalizar la licitud de matar a Abraham para obtener a Sara. Eso es lo que le daba miedo: a la “moral” sin directiva de Dios. Moralidad hecha por el hombre ha sido y siempre será sospechoso.

Que podamos vivir de acuerdo con y unirnos con la ética que hemos heredado desde los días de Abraham.

Shabat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedicación

Para el Rabino Shmuel Eliahu y ​​Danny Sanderson – dos personas muy diferentes que me inspiraron esta semana. (Puede ver más detalles en mi blog (en Inglés), “Adventures”)

Morality Play

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayera-morality-play/]

Netziv Genesis: Vayera

Morality Play

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” -George Washington

Abraham arrives at Grar, land of the Philistines with his beautiful wife, Sarah. In order to protect himself from lustful, violent men ready to kill a husband so as to claim the wife, Abraham and Sarah assume the guise of siblings. Avimelech, King of Grar, claims Sarah for himself. God intervenes, warns Avimelech in a dream, Sarah is returned to Avraham and all continue with their interesting lives.

Avimelech however confronts Abraham and asks him why they lied about their identity. Abraham responds that he didn’t see “fear of God” amongst the Philistines. (Recap of beginning of Genesis Chapter 20).

The Netziv on Genesis 20:11 states something surprising. He claims that the Philistines were actually a civilized, moral people and would not under normal circumstances capture a married woman or resort to murder that they may claim her. However, Abraham sensed that their morality was relativistic and not absolute. That it came from social convention and not from belief nor subjecting oneself to divine command.

Because of this “natural” morality, Abraham knew that the Philistines would have a much harder time resisting temptation. He knew that they would rationalize the permissibility of killing Abraham in order to get Sarah. That’s what he was afraid of: a “morality” without God’s directive. Man-made morality has been and always will be suspect.

May we live up to and attach ourselves to the ethics that we’ve inherited from the days of Abraham.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Danny Sanderson – two very different people who inspired me this week. (See “Adventures” blog post for more details)