Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Lech Lecha
Rabbi Mansour 2011
Shabbat Morning Class
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This week’s Parasha begins with Hashem instructing Avraham Avinu to leave his hometown. Avraham traveled with all the members of his household, and most notably his nephew Lot. The Torah details Avraham’s traveling with Lot and it mentions several episodes concerning Lot. The Torah mentions Lot when Avraham first started traveling, it mentions him when Avraham left Egypt, as well as when they split up with each other, and Avraham’s subsequent saving Lot’s life.
The Torah places an emphasis on the status of Lot and his interaction with Avraham.
What needs to be explained is; what was so special about Lot that Avraham made sure to always "keep him by his side"? It seems that Lot was not such a big Sadik to warrant being constantly in the company of Avraham, as evidenced by his choosing Sedom (the city full of sin and corruption) as his place of residence!
We even find Avraham risking his life and going into battle versus four mighty kings in order to rescue Lot. What was it about Lot that deserved so much attention and self sacrifice from Avraham?! Avraham protected Lot, watched over him, kept him by his side, and ultimately risked his life for him. What was so special about Lot to deserve all this from Avraham Avinu?!
In order to explain, we have to delve deeply into what was contained inside Lot. Lot may not have been this deserving in his own right, but what he carried in his soul was in fact deserving of such protection and sacrifice from Avraham. It is written that sometimes Hashem brings down the Neshamot of especially great Sadikim through simple people in order that the Satan should "not notice".
Whose Neshama was contained inside of Lot and was worth Avraham Avinu risking his life??
The Sefer Hagilgulim of R Menahem Azarya Mfino explains that it was the Neshama of the holy Amora "Rava". Rava’s name is found on almost every page of the Talmud Bavli, and in many instances the Gemarah is referred to as "?????? ???? ????"-"the debates of Abaye and Rava" and these are the classic examples of the style of the Gemarah.
Rava therefore represents the Talmud Bavli which is the prime feature of the Torah Shebeal Peh. When Avraham kept Lot by his side, he was guarding Rava and the Torah Shebeal Peh that would emerge through him!
The Goyim understood this as well and they knew that if they would be able to capture and kill Lot, it would doom the future of the Jews. The written Torah is not understandable without the oral Torah (Torah Shebeal Peh)! This is why the four kings looked to capture Lot, and this is why Avraham risked his life to save him. Avraham was saving the future of the Jewish nation!
We see this hinted in the Pasuk (Perek 14 Pasuk 12) "????? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ??? ?????"- ["And they captured Lot and his possessions –Abraham’s brother’s son"]. The order of this Pasuk seemingly should have been: they captured Lot, Abraham’s brother’s son and his possessions. Why does the Torah insert "??? ????"-(his possessions) before mentioning that Lot was Avraham’s nephew?? The answer is that the Torah placed the words "??? ????" before the words "?? ???" in order to create a ?''?. The first letters of the words ???? ?? ???"" spell ??? and hint to the soul of the holy Rava that the four kings held in captivity.
One of the four kings was "Amraphel king of Shinar" the Targum Yonatan teaches us, that Amraphel was none other than Nimrod the king who threw Avraham into the fire. The word Amraphel in a contraction of the phrase "the one who said to throw" and he was the king of Shinar. The Midrash Rabba says that Shinar was Bavel (the low lying land where all the bodies from the flood ended up). We see that Nimrod conquered Bavel, and tried to kill Lot in an attempt to prevent the existence of the Talmud Bavli!
Now that we know that Rava’s Neshama came through Lot, we analyze many statements of Rava that he made in various Gemarot, and our eyes are open to see the amazing connections between his statements and the source of his Neshama- Lot.
One statement is from the Gemarah (Yevamot 77A) that says "Rava says what is the meaning of what is written in Tehilim "???? ??????"-("you have freed my bonds")? King David was saying to Hashem- you have freed me from the two shackles that were on me when you permitted the females of Amon and Moav to marry into the nation. The two "shackles" were Naama Haamonit and Ruth Hamoavia, both whom were permitted to marry into the nation and from whom the dynasty of Malchut Bet David came from. It is no coincidence that it was Rava who made this statement. Rava was teaching us about his origin. Naama and Ruth came from Amon and Moav- the children of Lot. They produced King David the continuation of his kingdom, as well as the Mashiach.
David Hamelech also was from Lot and like Rava, had a direct connection with the Torah Shebeal Peh. David Hamelech represents the Sefirah of Malchut. The seventh night of Succot is the Ushpizin night of David Hamelech- Malchut, and we also find that David married Bat Sheva (lit; seventh daughter) - hinting to her association with David and Malchut.
There are various body parts that correspond with different Sefirot. Which part of the body represents Malchut? It is the ??-the mouth. The mouth represents the Torah Shebeal Peh. As we read in Patach Eliyahu "????? ??- ???? ???? ?? ????? ??"-"Malchut is the mouth and we call it Torah Shebeal Peh". We find that David- like Rava- through his aspect of Malchut was connected to the Torah Shebeal Peh, and he too came from Lot.
David Hamelech was the king, and another way of describing a king is a ???-head (or leader). The ???-head is where the mouth is located and represents the Torah Shebeal Peh.
It is written that whoever attacks the Oral Torah gets punished through his head. Yaakov embodied the Torah Shebeal Peh, and he was attacked by Eisav. What was Eisav’s end? He had his head chopped off by Yaakov’s grandson.
The snake was the original one who challenged the Oral Torah by convincing Chava that Adam was being "too strict" by not allowing her to touch the tree. What was his end? The Pasuk says "??? ????? ???"-man will "pound your head", a snake is killed by crushing its head. This explains why it says in the Gemarah (Shabbat 110A) that "whoever breaks the fence (of the Rabbi’s representing the oral Torah) should get bit by a snake.
The snake represents the attack on the Oral Torah, and it is only fitting that this person be punished by the snake who he is emulating.
We also find that in the times of Purim when the Jews were reaffirming the Oral Torah, Haman and his ten sons opposed the Jews and their attempt to reestablish the Oral Torah. What was their punishment? They were beheaded then hung on a tree!
The punishment is to the head, since the Oral Torah is represented by the head. We also notice that the leader of a Yeshiva is called a "??? ?????" because he is trying to perpetuate the Torah Shebeal Peh which is called ???.
With this concept we understand a beautiful hint to the importance of learning Torah, specifically on Shabbat. The Shabbat was given to us especially for the study of Torah. We are to use this time off of work to delve into the holy Torah. In the beginning Hashem gave a partner to every day of the week. Sunday was coupled with Monday. Tuesday with Wednesday, and Thursday with Friday. Shabbat then came forward and asked Hashem; who will be my partner?? Hashem answered that the Jews will be the partner of Shabbat, like we say upon entry of Shabbat "??? ??? ??? ???"-"come o' bride". We are united with Shabbat, and we are to sanctify it through the study of Torah. If we take the letters before ?-?-? we have the word ??? (the ? is before the ?, the ? is before the ?, and the ? is before the ?). This hints to us the connection between Shabbat, Torah Shebeal Peh, and the Rosh.
Rava explained this teaching of King David since David was the King-Rosh, and represented the Oral Torah just like Rava himself!
Another statement in the Gemarah that shows Rava’s connection with Lot is in the Gemarah (Megillah 7B) that says; "Rava says a person is obligated to get drunk on Purim", and Rashi explains that to "get drunk" one must drink wine. This implies that any other alcoholic beverage is not the way to get drunk on Purim. Why wine?? Wine is what caused Lot to stumble, in the incident when Lot got drunk and slept with his daughters. In order to rectify this mistake that had to do with wine, Rava advised to drink wine-only this time for a good purpose, thereby being ???? and fixing the previous mistake that his origin (Lot) made with wine. We also see various Gemarot that describe how Rava drank wine for a Misvah whenever he could (ex; he would drink wine on Erev Pesah in order to open his appetite for the Matzah), all this was to rectify the ??? from the incident with Lot.
The Gemarah (Shabbat 88A) says; that initially Hashem took the mountain and threatened to bury the Jews under it if they failed to accept the Oral Torah. Rava says that even so, the Jews reaccepted it willingly in the times of Purim like it says; "???? ?????"-they were ???? (accepted) what they already were ???? (took upon themselves). They accepted the Torah Shebeal Peh out of love.
This statement of Rava is once again about what he stood for- the Torah Shebeal Peh- and it is Rava who shows us how willing we were to accept it!
The Gemarah (Nedarim 32A) says that Avraham Avinu’s children were punished, and needed to go down to Egypt because Avraham used his students to fight the war against the four kings. Avraham had students that studied Torah all day. Avraham stopped them from studying, and took them out to war with him, and because he used Rabbi’s to fight a war, his children became slaves in Egypt. The obvious question is; Avraham knew the Halacha, why would he use Rabbi’s to fight a war?? The answer is understood by a principal explained by Rava in the Gemarah (Berachot 63A) it says; "?? ????? ?? ???? ?????"-"it is time for you Hashem to act, they have nullified your Torah". Rava explains that this Pasuk can be understood to mean, that sometimes one must "act for ?'" (?? ????? ??'), by "nullifying the Torah" (???? ?????). Meaning, sometimes one must disobey a law of the Torah in order to save many more laws of the Torah (obviously this is something only our great Rabbis had the ability to determine).
The case of Avraham Avinu is a classic example. Avraham, as mentioned was on a mission to save Lot and rescue the Oral Torah contained in him. If he did not do so, there would be no Torah for his Yeshivah to study! This was clearly a time of "?? ????? ??' ???? ?????"- a time where Avraham needed to stop the Rabbis from learning, in order to save the future of Torah.
This concept is explained by Rava of course, in order to clarify why Avraham went ahead and did what he did in order to save Lot- the origin of Rava!
The question is, if so why was Avraham punished that his children had to be slaves in Egypt??
The explanation is; that in reality this was not a punishment. There were many sparks of holiness from the beginning of time that landed in Egypt. The Jewish people had recovered all the holy sparks during their tenure in Egypt (as it says; "?????? ?? ?????"-"they emptied Egypt" from all its sparks). This however was a very dangerous and damaging undertaking. We fell to the 49th level of impurity and were almost lost! However this sacrifice was worth it as we learn from the very same Pasuk "?? ????? ??' ???? ?????", we sometimes must sacrifice in order to do for Hashem. Therefore in actuality this was an opportunity to collect all of the holy sparks that were in Egypt.
The defense of Avraham Avinu for going to war to save Lot- and the explanation of why he really was not punished is all understood from the statement of Rava.
The Gemarah (Hagigah 15A) quoted the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim "?? ??? ???? ?????" and compares the Talmidei Chachamim to an ???? (a walnut). Rava explains; that the reason why Rabbis are compared to walnuts is that, just like a walnut can get filthy dirty on the outside but the nut on the inside remains clean. So too a Rabbi, even if dirtied the Torah in him remains clean and pure.
This teaching of Rava about a walnut personifies Lot. Lot made mistakes, and got himself "dirty" in various ways, however what was inside of him (Rava) remained perfectly clean! As a matter of fact, the walnut itself represents both evil and purity. The numerical value of the word ???? is 17. And 17 is also the numerical value of the word ?? (sin). For this reason there are those who refrain from eating nuts on Rosh Hashanah (in order to stay far away as possible from anything that even remotely connotes sin). However 17 is also the numerical value of the word ???-good, which stands for ???? and purity. We see this dual implication of the word ???? for both purity and impurity, and this is the perfect example for Rava to explain this concept of something being sullied in impurity while retaining its inner purity. Just like Lot who was dirtied while the Rava inside of him remained pure.
In the Gemarah (Nazir 23B) Rava expounds on the Pasuk in Mishlei chapter 18; "?? ???? ????? ??? ??????? ????? ?????"-"a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city and there quarrels are like bars of a castle". Who is the brother that offended? This is Lot who split from Avraham (when he caused a quarrel with Avraham and as a result moved to Sedom), and as a result, the offspring of Lot (Midyanim) became like "bars of a castle" forbidden to enter the Jewish nation.
Rava continues to expand another Pasuk in the same Perek; "????? ???? ???? ??? ????? ?????"-"he who keeps himself apart desires to satisfy his own vanity, he breaks out against all sound judgment". Rava explains, who is the one that desired to be alone in order to satisfy his passion? It is Lot who moved to the city of Sedom which was full of sin. The Pasuk finishes "??? ????? ?????" which Rava expounds to mean "in all the synagogues and study halls his shame will be revealed" meaning in all the study halls they will learn about the act of Lot (sleeping with his daughters while he was drunk), and announce that his much of his offspring is forbidden.
Lot tried to keep himself private in order to sin, however in the end his shame was known to all. This seems to be a drastic change from the previous Gemarot that have been quoted! In the previous Gemarot we found that Rava was supporting Lot and trying to rectify various acts for his sake, but here Rava speaks very harshly and negatively about him?!
Why would Rava publicize the shame of the one who he came from??
The explanation is based on the writings of a student of Rav Menachem Azariah from Pano named Rabbi Avraham Nachman. He writes that we find in various places throughout the Torah it will speak negatively about someone who we know did Teshuvah. For example, we begin the Hagadah Shel Pesah speaking about Terah (the father of Avraham Avinu) being an idol worshipper. We know that in the end Terah repented. Why would we speak negatively about someone who repented?! Rabbi Avraham Nachman explains, that this is in order to embarrass the person to afford him a Kapparah for the actions he’s done. Terah hears us speaking negatively about him in Shamayim (much like it says "??????? ?????? ????"-"the lips move in the grave" when we quote the Torah of a Rabbi who is deceased). When Terah hears us speaking despairingly about him he is shamed, and this gives him an added degree of Kapparah for the sins that he had repented from.
Another example brought by Rav Avraham Nachman is the Gemarah (Sanhedrin 90A) that says, there are three kings and four common people that have no portion in the world to come, and one of the kings is King Menashe. We know that King Menashe did Teshuvah at the end of his life. Rabbi Avraham Nachman writes "I wish I had the portion of Menashe in Olam Haba"!! Menashe as well as the others mentioned indeed do have a portion in Olam Haba, and it is just to give them added Kapparah that the Gemarah embarrasses them by saying that they don’t!
Using this concept we can now explain what Rava was trying to accomplish by speaking despairingly about Lot. He was trying to afford Lot the extra degree of Kapparah by embarrassing him with the harsh words of the Gemarah. It was his ultimate loyalty to the well being of the Neshama of Lot that fueled this type of speech from Rava!!
Today however we must be extra careful in speaking negatively about those who have done Teshuvah.
A story is told about a man who contracted a rare tongue disorder which would eventually claim his life. While he was in the hospital he requested to speak with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ZTL. When the rabbi came to visit him, the man confided to the rabbi that a few weeks earlier he had read the story of Lot sleeping with his daughters and how they named the child "Moav" (meaning - "from my father"). When he read this, he started ridiculing Lot for his actions and even wondered aloud why they would name the child Moav. "Bad enough he did the act but did he have to publicize it?!"
The man had a dream that night and in his dream, the two daughters of Lot came to him and rebuked him for what he said about their father. "Do you have any idea why our father named his grandchild Moav?" They asked. They explained that Lot knew that in the future there would be a religion based on a person who claimed to have a mother but no father. Lot therefore wanted to publicize the fact that it was he who impregnated his daughter (because otherwise no one would have suspected a daughter sleeping with her father) so that no one should claim that this child was special and therefore build a religion around him. Lot's intention was actually very noble and praiseworthy! The daughters then informed the man that he would now suffer for what he said.
The man told this story to Rabbi Feinstein so that all may learn about the true intentions of Lot and so that nobody should make the same mistake that he made.
If this is what happened to someone who spoke about Lot, can we imagine the fate of someone who would dare not speak positively ?''? about our holy Avot??!
Unfortunately there are those today who have the audacity to speak about our saintly ancestors, and we must stay far away from such blatant acts of ignorance.
We must remain firmly connected to our Rabbis who have tradition. This tradition can be traced back all the way up to the great Sadikim of previous generations.
May we always cling to our great Rabbis and holy Sadikim. May Hashem give them long life and health. They represent the Torah Shebeal Peh and our connection to the holy one blessed be he. May we appreciate and enjoy them for many years to come with health ?? ???? ???? ?????? ???!