Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Vayeira
Rabbi Mansour 5771- 2010
Shabbat Morning Class
This week’s Parasha begins with Hashem appearing to Avraham Avinu, as he
was recovering from his Berit Milah.
The Gemarah Yoma 28b states, that Avraham Avinu observed every Misvah in
the Torah. Avraham Avinu even observed the Misvot from the Rabbis such as Eiruvei
Tavshilin (preparing food for Shabbat before a holiday begins).
If Avraham Avinu kept every Misvah in the Torah, why did he wait until Hashem
commanded him to perform the Berit Milah? Why not do it earlier? It wasn’t until he
was 99 years old that he was commanded regarding the performance of the Berit
Milah. Surely Avraham knew of this Misvah, what is the reason that he waited until he
was commanded by Hashem?
One answer is that there is a rule" ???? ???? ????? ???? ?????? ???? ????? "-"greater
is the one who was commanded and performs more than one is not commanded and
performs". A person has an inborn nature not to take orders from others. It is therefore
more difficult to fulfill a command, than to act on one’s own accord. The Misvah of Berit
Milah is a once in a lifetime Misvah, unlike other Misvot that can be repeated. Avraham
Avinu knew that a commandment for the Berit Milah would be forthcoming; he
therefore waited until he would be commanded to do so, in order to perform the Misvah
as someone commanded to do it, and in this way his Misvah would be considered
The Shela Hakadosh answers that when the Gemarah says that Avraham
fulfilled all of the Misvot, it meant that he fulfilled them only AFTER his Berit Mila. It was
only then that he observed all the Misvot.
Another explanation is that there is a rule that one is not permitted to injure or
wound himself unnecessarily. Until Avraham Avinu was commanded to perform the
Berit Milah, the act of circumcision was considered wounding one’s body. Once
Hashem commanded Avraham Avinu to perform the Berit Milah, it became a Misvah
and was no longer categorized as "wounding one’s body unnecessarily".
Another explanation can be seen from a story in the Gemarah about Rabbi
Akivah and Turnus Rufus. Turnus Rufus once asked R’ Akivah; which is greater, what
Hashem does or what man does? What Hashem does; answered R’ Akivah. If so,
asked Turnus, why do you take a baby, which is the creation of Hashem, and perform
a circumcision on it? By doing so you are showing that Hashem’s creation is
incomplete and it is we that have to perfect and finalize it?? Let me explain; said R’
Akivah. Just as you can understand that when a stalk of wheat emerges from the
ground it is incomplete, it needs to be processed in many different ways until it is in its
edible form of bread to be eaten. The reason for this is that Hashem sometimes
creates certain things expecting man to complete them, so too the human body,
Hashem left it to man to complete his creation.
We see that performing the Berit Milah completes the body which is the
handiwork of Hashem. However, for Avraham to perform the Berit Milah before being
commanded would be implying to Hashem that his work was incomplete! This would
be a great disrespect to Hashem. It is only after Hashem had instructed us to complete
his work, are we able to perform the Berit Milah. It is for this reason that Avraham
Avinu needed to wait until he was commanded, for otherwise this would be considered
disrespectful to Hashem by implying that his creation was incomplete.
Another explanation is from R’ Levi Yishak Miberdidtchov, who explains that all of
Avraham Avinu’s limbs were holy and they were "connected" to the Misvot of Hashem.
This enabled him to understand what the Misvot were that needed to be done, even
before the Torah was given. His limbs "automatically" moved him to do the acts of the
Misvot (with this concept Hacham Baruch A’h answered a question. Avraham was
visited by Hashem, and when he saw the three angels he asked Hashem to excuse
him so that he can tend to the guests. It says that from here we learn that ?????? ??? is
even greater than accepting the presence of Hashem! Hacham Baruch A’h asked; this
is how we know it, but how did Avraham Avinu know that this was the rule?! Who
taught him that taking care of guests was more important than being with Hashem?!
He answered that Avraham felt his legs suddenly "getting up" to run towards the
guests, and from this he understood that it was the proper thing to leave the presence
of Hashem in order to help the guests).
All of Avraham Avinu’s limbs had "clear reception" to the will of Hashem and his
Misvot. There was only one exception; the Berit Milah. This blocked his "spiritual
transmission" to perceive exactly what the Misvah was that needed to be done with
that part of the body and it is for this reason, that he did not know about the Misvah of
Berit Milah before he was commanded.
Another answer given is based upon the opinion of the Rambam (Maimonides)
and Ramban (Nachmonides). The Rambam explains the reason for the Misvah of Berit
Milah. A man is created with lust and passions. The purpose of the Berit Milah is to
"curb" these lusts and help a Jew overcome these desires. The Ramban however,
argues and says that the Berit Milah is a sign in our skin. It is like a "stamp of Hashem"
that we place on our bodies. Like it says in the blessing of the Berit Milah "??? ????
???????" -the Berit is a "seal of Hashem" upon our skin. Whether a person has desires
or not, he needs the Berit Milah on his body.
Avraham Avinu first understood like the Rambam - that the reason for the Berit
Milah was to control the lust. We see from various instances that Avraham Avinu had
no lust whatsoever! (Ex; when Avraham said to Sarah "now I know you are beautiful",
until that point he had not even gazed upon her beauty!) For this reason Avraham
Avinu felt that the Berit Milah was unnecessary for him. There was no desire that the
Berit Milah needed to curb! Eventually, Hashem introduced to him the reason of the
Ramban, that it was a seal of Hashem, notwithstanding any physical desires. It was
only then that Avraham was taught this additional understanding in the purpose of the
Berit Milah and realized that it applied to him as well!
Another answer is based upon the explanation of the Sforno. The Sforno says
that " ' ???? ???? ? "-(the opening incident of the Parasha when Hashem appeared to
Avraham Avinu) transpired on the day of the Berit Milah (other commentaries
understand it to be the third day after the Berit Milah). The Pasuk is telling us that
Hashem came down to the Berit Milah of Avraham Avinu. Hashem does the same for
the Berit Milah of every single Jew!
The idea behind Hashem "descending" for the Berit Milah is that the very nature
of the Berit Milah is that it is a covenant between us and Hashem. We make a "treaty"
to be loyal with Hashem and by its very nature, a treaty requires two parties. It is in
order to make this "deal" with us that Hashem comes to every Berit Milah. The Sforno
explains that it is for this reason that we place an empty chair next to the Sandak, in
order to show Hashem’s involvement in the treaty we are about to forge with Him! It is
like a business agreement, where two parties sit next to each other and agree on a
Naturally, we are unable to make a treaty without Hashem being "ready" to make
a treaty with us. It is because of this, that Avraham Avinu needed to wait until he was
told to perform a Berit Milah. What good would it have been for Avraham to perform the
covenant and treaty by himself, without Hashem being ready to forge it with him?!
Avraham Avinu therefore waited until he was told by Hashem that the time had come
for this Misvah, and he was ready to make a covenant with him. (When Hashem came
to Avraham Avinu’s Berit he actually helped Avraham perform the Berit Milah upon
himself. Avraham Avinu was 99 years old and his hand began to shake! Hashem "took
hold" of that hand of Avraham Avinu, steadied it, and helped him with the act of
circumcision. This is what is meant in the ????? ??? portion of Shaharit, when we say
????? ??? ?????" ", he forged the covenant with him. The act of the Berit Milah was done
by Hashem together with Avraham Avinu).
Some commentaries explain that Hashem sends down an agent to "consummate
the deal". Who is the agent of Hashem? It is Eliyahu Hanavi. Eliyahu Hanavi comes
down as Hashem’s "representative" to forge the treaty of the Berit Milah with every
Jew. This is why we have the ??? ????? by every Berit Milah.
How did it come about that Eliyahu Hanavi was given the responsibility to
represent Hashem by every Berit Milah? This was actually a sort of punishment on
account of an incident in the Neviim (' ?????? ? ). There was a period in time when the
Jews had been worshipping idols, Eliyahu said to Hashem in zealousness; "the Jewish
people have forsaken the covenant"! Hashem answered Eliyahu; "I need my prophets
to advocate for my people, not prosecute against them"! It was then that Eliyahu was
given the task of attending every Berit Milah that would take place afterwards, and
repor back to Hashem that the Jews indeed are "keeping the covenant".
The question is asked, why is it considered a "punishment" for Eliyahu Hanavi to
have to attend every Berit Milah? It seems as if this should be a reward?! One
explanation is the connection between the ?? -(mouth) and the ???? . Both are
numerically 85. A spiritual deficiency in one, is linked to a deficiency in the other. When
Eliyahu Hanavi spoke negatively against the Jews, this necessitated a rectification for
his mouth- ?? . This is hinted to in the Pasuk when Hashem told Eliyahu "?? ?? ??
?????" - (lit;"what are you doing here"?), the word 85 =?? . Hashem was showing him
what he now needed to rectify. For this reason he was given the task of attending the
Berit Milah of the Jews since as mentioned, the Milah and mouth are spiritually related
and this would rectify what Eliyahu said.
Another reason why it was considered a punishment is that in Olam Haba the
Sadikim are learning Torah. Eliyahu Hanavi is of course among them learning. Having
to stop study Torah in order to come to this world for a Berit Milah, causes Eliyahu to
miss the novel Torah concepts taught in Olam Haba, and is therefore considered a
punishment for him.
Another reason is that many times, there are multiple Berit Milah's occurring
simultaneously. How does Eliyahu attend all of them at the same time?? The Zohar
explains that the Neshama of Eliyahu Hanavi is forced to "split up" in order to be at all
the Berit Milah's at the same time. This is a ??? (spiritual pain) for the Neshama. This is
alluded to in the Pasuk in Parashat Pinhas, which speaks of Pinhas (Eliyahu) "???? ????
?? ?? ????? ????" -"behold, I give to him my covenant of peace", the ' ? in the word ???? is
a ?' ????? -a "broken Vav". It is written in the Torah as a half Vav, missing its lower half.
This is an allusion to the fact that the Neshama of Eliyahu Hanavi is forced to
sometimes "split" in order to attend multiple Berit Milah.
Eliyahu Hanavi represents Hashem in the treaty of the Berit Milah. There is
another treaty in the Torah and that is the Shabbat. The Pasuk says about
Shabbat;" ???? ???? ??? ????? ??? ??? ????? "-"it is a sign of the covenant between me and
you". If the Shabbat is a covenant between us and Hashem, and as mentioned a
covenant needs two parties, who is Hashem’s representative by the treaty of
Shabbat?! It is the ???? ???? -the "extra Neshama" that we are blessed with at the
onset of Shabbat. It is this Neshama that represents Hashem in this covenant between
us and him every Shabbat!
"???? ???? ?' ????? ????"
"And Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamreh"
Rashi explains " ??? ???? ??? ?? ????? "- it was Mamreh that gave Avraham Avinu
advice regarding the Milah. Therefore Hashem appeared to him in the area of Mamreh.
Avraham Avinu had three close friends ???, ?????, ???? . He had asked all three
what they thought of Hashem’s command of the Berit Milah. ??? answered "don’t do it",
it will cause you a lot of pain and it is forbidden to cause oneself pain, ??? ’s name
stands for ????? ??? ?? (afflicting oneself is evil). ????? also responded "don’t do it’. His
logic was that Avraham Avinu had many enemies and if he were to perform the Berit
Milah, this would weaken him and make him vulnerable to attack from his enemies.
????? ’s name stands for ???? ?????? ????? ?? (my brother, you have mighty enemies).
???? advised Avraham Avinu to perform the Milah, ???? stands for ?? ??? ???? ? -?
(circumcise quickly, Hashem will heal).
What exactly was Avraham Avinu asking them? He had been instructed directly
by Hashem to do this Misvah, what was there to talk about?! Avraham obviously could
not have been asking if he should do it or not! What then was his question?? There are
many explanations given from the commentaries as to what he was asking. We will
discuss one of them.
There are 10 Sefirot (lit; levels or filters) in spirituality. The highest of the ten is
??? and the lowest of them is ????? . When a baby is born he is on the spiritual level of
????? . Each day that goes by the baby ascends one Sefirah (meaning he attains the
spiritual capacity to accept the holiness of that Sefirah). By the time the eighth day
comes he is on the level of ???? (the third highest Sefirah). It was in regards to these
spiritual ascensions that Avraham Avinu was asking Mamreh. Avraham Avinu was
commanded to do the Berit Milah; his question was, should he wait eight days from the
day of the commandment, or do the Berit immediately? Perhaps he needed eight days
to elevate himself the eight Sefirot to ???? before he did the Berit Milah?! Mamreh
pointed out to Avraham Avinu that he had already reached all the high spiritual levels
of all the Sefirot and was therefore no need to wait before he did the Berit Milah. This is
hinted in the words of Rashi. Rashi says " ???? ??? ?? ????? "- he gave the ??? -(advice)
regarding the Berit Milah. The word ??? is synonymous with ???? (understanding).
[Some of the Sefirot are synonymous with other words or ideas (example; ????? is
synonymous with ?-??? , this is why we begin the Amidah with the words ?-??? ????
???? , we open the Amidah from ????? and we work our way up)]. Rashi was hinting to
the advice of ???? regarding the Sefirah of .????
It is based on this concept that it is brought down from the ??? ????? and the
???'?? that one should make a Seudah on the third day after the Berit Milah. This feast
should be even greater than the Seudah of the Berit Milah itself! They explain, that the
origin to make a Seudah on the day of the Berit Milah is from the Pasuk that says
Avraham Avinu made a feast " ???? ???? ?? ???? "-the word ???? is broken up to read
8=?? .?? -?? and ?? means Milah. Showing us that Avraham Avinu made a feast on the
8th day- the day he circumcised his son. This is only hinted to in the Pasuk, however
the third day after the Milah was the day that Avraham Avinu (according to this opinion)
served the 3 angels and made them a feast! We see clearly that Avraham made a
feast on this day.
The reason for this Seudah is that on the third day after the Berit Milah, the child
obtains the spiritual capabilities to connect with the Sefirah of ??? -the highest of all the
Sefirot! This is indeed a cause for great celebration!
The ten Sefirot are connected to:
• The ten tests of Avraham Avinu
• The ten plagues
• The ten Commandments
• The ten utterances that the world was created with
The tenth plague was ??? ?????? and the tenth test of Avraham Avinu was to
sacrifice his first born. The tenth utterance was ????? ???? ????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ????
???? ?? ??? ????? which was for Adam to marry (in order to have children). This was the
test of Avraham Avinu, to take his child and sacrifice him to Hashem. The tenth
commandment is ?? ???? ("do not be jealous"), this is what the Satan tried to test
Yishak Avinu with when he was about to be slaughtered. He told Yishak: "Your mother
prepared so much jewelry for your bride"! "Now Yishmael will get everything"! Yishak
of course, was unfazed.
We see the connection between the tenth of various different holy things.
Our Parasha begins with the story of Avraham Avinu with the angels which took place
on the third day after the Berit Mila day which is the day of ??? - the tenth day, and it
ends with the tenth test of Avraham- the Akeidat Yishak.
The torah- in the form of the second Luhot- was brought down by Moshe
Rabeinu on the tenth day of ???? , the day of Yom Kippur! That was the day the Jews
received the ??? ???? (crown of Torah). ??? corresponding to the tenth Sefirah of !???
We learn from all this how special and holy the Misvah of Berit Milah is! It is the
covenant that connects us to Hashem, a seal of Hashem in our bodies, and the bond
that keeps us forever close to him. It is done on the eighth day of life, the day of ,????
the day symbolizing things that are "above nature". It is part of the process to the
babies’ spiritual ascension to the ability to reach the highest Sefirot! It is incumbent
upon us to guard this holy covenant. May we merit to guard our Berit Kodesh, and to
keep it pure in order to enjoy all the benefits of being connected to our creator!