Lech Lecha



ויהי רעב בארץ וירד אברם מצרימה    יב:י           The Ramban holds that leaving Eretz Yisrael because of the famine was an aveirah. Avraham avinu should have had bitachon in Hashem, says the Ramban, since he was commanded by Hashem to go to Eretz Yisrael. The Michtav Mei’Eliyahu raises a question on this. Maaseh avos siman la’banim. Avraham avinu had to go to Shechem, for example, because, eventually, that would be the location of his descendants making war against the Goyim who defiled Dinah. Another example, he had to go to Beis El because that is where Yehoshua would eventually begin the conquest of Eretz Yisrael. All of Avraham avinu’s travels and experiences were directly being guided by the hashgachah of Hashem in order to pave the way for the future generations. Likewise, it was clearly by divine providence that Avraham avinu had to go down to Mitzrayim in order to pave the way for his descendants who would be enslaved there. As such, questions Rav Dessler, why does the Ramban label this as a sin on the part of Avraham avinu. The answer is that it was not the action of going down to Mitzrayim that was the sin, but the thoughts behind it. Really, Avraham should have been cognizant of the fact that he wasn’t going down to Mitzrayim because that was his only chance for physical survival, but simply because that is where the Hashgachah was directing him. The fact that he felt that he was compelled to go down to Mitzrayim in order to do hishtadlus to keep him and his family alive was a lack in emunah and bitachon. The Ramban says further that it was precisely because of this sin of Avraham avinu going down to Mitzrayim that his descendants were later subjected to the slavery there. That was the fitting punishment because, “in the place of the sin is the place of the judgment”.  With the above in mind, we understand that it was not simply a tit-for-tat punishment that the Jewish People undergo the slavery in Mitzrayim; rather, it was specifically engineered to correct the deficiency in emunah and bitachon. For the ultimate end of the shibud in Mitzrayim was the ten makos and yetzias Mitzrayim which brought Klal Yisrael to a tremendous level of emunah and bitachon. (From Rebbetzin Twersky)        


מַה־תִּתֶּן־לִ֔י וְאָנֹכִ֖י הוֹלֵ֣ךְ עֲרִירִ֑י וּבֶן־מֶ֣שֶׁק בֵּיתִ֔י ה֖וּא דַּמֶּ֥שֶׂק אֱלִיעֶֽזֶר      טו:ב             When Avraham Avinu is describing his plight that he has no children, he says, “I am going barren and the custodian of my home is Damesek Eliezer.”  Why is Eliezer mentioned here?  We encountered Eliezer previously in the war against the four kings.  There he was described as “chanichav” of Avraham Avinu, equivalent to 318.  Chazal refer to him as a sagacious servant, one who exercised dominion over the Torah instruction of his master.  Here, where Avraham is bemoaning his barren state, we are told of his city of native origin, Damesek.  Why? The answer to this question is based on the statement of the Gaon regarding that which Chazal say, “Kol ha’melamed es ben chaveiro Torah k’ilu yelado, one who teachers another’s child Torah, it is as if he gave birth to him.”  The Gaon says that this is not merely a metaphor.  Rather it is a real birth; not a physical birth, but a spiritual birth.  A spiritual birth that parallels biological birth.  Regarding physical birth, Chazal teach us that there are three partners in every child that is born: Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, the child’s father, and the child’s mother.  Chazal further delineate the respective input of these three partners.  The father and mother provide the various physical components – the infrastructure – and Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu provides, “ruach u’neshamah dei’ah binah v’haskeil, spirit and soul, knowledge, understanding, and intellectual achievement.” Teaching Torah is the spiritual equivalent of birth.  Teaching Torah can create spiritual offspring.  What role, we may ask, is given to the partner, to Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, in spiritual birth?

The obvious answer is that there is a parallel between the two.  In teaching Torah, there are also two components.  The words of Torah themselves, what we call gufei Torah, are transmitted by the Rebbi to the Talmid.  Then there’s the nishmas chaim, the inner living soul of the words of Torah.  The ruchaniyus of the ruchaniyus.  Just as in the human being there is the spiritual life-force within the physical structure; so too, the spiritual words of Torah must have an inner, spiritual component.  Their own living soul.  This is the “knowledge, understanding, and intellectual achievement” that give vitality to the words of Torah. The Rebbi gives of himself to the Talmid.  He transmits to his talmid his Torah; his perception and comprehension.  Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, who is partnered in the teaching, gives each talmid his own “knowledge, understanding, and intellectual achievement”, his own living soul.  In every successful transmission of Torah, there exists a corollary of the “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe” from the Rebbi, and the “mi’pi ha’Gevurah”, the contribution of the partner, Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu. The Gemara in Chagigah says, “words of Torah are fruitful and multiply.”  A talmid learns and receives Torah from the Rebbi in accordance with the comprehension of that Rebbi.  The talmid then applies his own creativity to Torah, developing his own nuances and insights.  Each talmid chacham has his own particular way of viewing a given topic. Divrei Torah are fruitful and multiply when a talmid chacham uses his power of understanding in extrapolating new concepts and principals from that which he has already learned.  Divrei Torah are fruitful and multiply when we see the materialization of the knowledge and understanding that is bestowed by Hashem. We can conclude, then, when is a talmid a true spiritual offspring of his Rebbi?  It depends on whether Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu was a partner in the teaching, in the transmission of Torah.  If we see that the talmid has achieved his own unique portion in Torah, that the divrei Torah are alive with vitality within him – that to his words of Torah he applied knowledge, wisdom, and intellectual achievement – it must be that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu was, as it were, a partner in the process and there was a complete process of a spiritual birth.

Chazal tell us that Damesek is an acronym for “doleh u’mashkeh mi’toras rabo, he draws and waters from the teachings of his master.”  Eliezer drew fresh waters of Torah from the wellsprings of Avraham Avinu.  The Rambam writes in Hilchos Avodah Zarah that Avraham Avinu had tens of thousands of talmidim.  Eliezer was at the helm of all those Yeshivos Kollelim and other Torah institutions.  He must have delivered an impeccable review of Avraham Avinu’s shiurim.  However, he was merely drawing the water and pouring it further.  Water that goes into a pail emerges unchanged.  In Eliezer, the words of Torah were not in a state of being fruitful and multiplying.  For whatever reason, there was no nishmas chaim in his Torah.  This is why Avraham Avinu mentions Eliezer in this context, and specifically refers to him as Damesek Eliezer.  He was bemoaning the fact that he had neither biological progeny nor spiritual offspring either.  He was barren in the full sense of the word. (Audio recording)


ותן טל ומטר         On Rosh Chodesh during the winter, what is the halacha if someone forgot to say v’sein tal u’matar, and when he repeated Shmoneh Esrei, he forgot yaaleh v’yavo? In Brachos (26b) there is a machlokes Rishonim brought down in Tosafos and the Rosh regarding someone who forgot to say yaaleh v’yavo in Mincha of Rosh Chodesh, and only realized after nightfall.  By then, it was no longer Rosh Chodesh.  One shitah holds that there is no reason to daven a teffilas tashlumin (a make-up Shmoneh Esrei which immediately follows the one he is currently davening), because what will he gain by doing that?  The whole reason he needs to daven again is in order to get the missed yaaleh v’yavo, and he is not going to get that since tashlumin is always the same Shmoneh Esrei as that of the current teffilah.  The other shitah, though, says that having missed yaaleh v’yavo is as if he did not daven, and he must daven a teffilas tashlumin to make up for that lost teffilah. The first shitah holds that missing yaaleh v’yavo is not as if you didn’t daven.  Yaaleh v’yavo, according to the first shitah, was not enacted as an inherent part of the Shmoneh Esrei; rather, it is a separate obligation of b’chol yom v’yom tein lo mei’ein birchosav – a requirement to mention mei’ein ha’meorah, the specialness of that particular day.

To sharpen the point, consider the following question.  In general, when one has to daven again because of forgetting yaaleh v’yavo, is he allowed to eat before davening again?  The answer is that it depends if he is considered to have already davened or not.  According to the first shitah, it makes sense to say that he is allowed to eat since he davened already, just he has a chiyuv to daven again in order to facilitate the recitation of yaaleh v’yavo.  Whereas according to the second shitah that it is as if he has not davened, then the issur of lo sochlu al ha’dahm should still apply. Another nafkah minah that sharpens the point: when someone forgot yaaleh v’yavo, are all the brachos of his first Shmoneh Esrei l’vatalah?  According to the first shitah no, and according to the second shitah yes.  There is a maaseh that Rav Meir Soloveitchik once forgot yaaleh v’yavo on Shabbos.  His father, the Brisker Rav said to him, “Nu, so now you have another seven brachos towards your meiah brachos.”  Such “offhanded” comments from the Brisker Rav contained hilchesah gevirtah.  What he meant is this, that the brachos are not l’vatalah (like the first shitah); although there is a chiyuv to daven again in order to be able to say yaaleh v’yavo, it doesn’t mean that the first teffilah was not a teffilah, it was. It would seem, then, that the above case of someone who forgot v’sein tal u’matar the first time around and yaaleh v’yavo the second time around, is going to be subject to this machlokes.  According to the second opinion, he will for sure have to daven a third time – since each time he missed something which is l’ikuvah it is as if he did not daven; and according to the first opinion he should not have to daven again since he already fulfilled his obligation of mei’ein ha’meorah in the first Shmoneh Esrei, and now, in the second one he said v’sein tal u’matar.

However, that is not so pashut. In Chiddushei Ha’Grach (stencils) it says that someone who forgot v’sein tal u’matar in Mincha of Erev Shabbos – and only realized his mistake after nightfall – must daven two Maariv’s.  Why?  Harei, according to the first shitah in Tosafos we should ostensibly say, “What does he stand to gain?!  He is now holding by Maariv of Shabbos in which there is no v’sein tal u’matar, so his tashlumin will not make up for what he lost?!  The reasoning that Reb Chaim gives is, “because he was meshaneh mi’matbeiah sheh’tavu Chachamim.”  In other words, v’sein tal u’matar is not an extraneous hazkarah, it was enacted as an essential part of the actual Shmoneh Esrei.  Therefore, when one forgets v’sein tal u’matar, his requirement to re-daven Shmoneh Esrei is not just in order to be able to say the hazkarah of tal u’matar; rather, it is the din teffilah itself that requires him to daven again.  This is in contrast to yaaleh v’yavo which the first shitah holds is not part of the teffilah itself, but just and added hazkarah of mei’ein ha’meorah. That being the case, one could posit that everyone would agree that in the aforementioned scenario (of forgetting tal u’matar the first time around and yaaleh v’yavo the second time around) that he has to daven a third time since the context in which he said yaaleh v’yavo the first time around was deficient. However, there is room to argue that even according to Reb Chaim, he does not have to daven a third time (according to the first shitah).  How is that?  It is as follows.  What is the halacha if someone forgot v’sein tal u’matar in Bareich Aleinu and remembered in the middle of Shma Koleinu?  The din is that he says the bakasha of v’sein tal u’matar right there in Shma Koleinu!  Now, what if he forgot the entire bracha of Bareich Aleinu – or any other bracha for that matter – can he make it up in Shma Koleinu?  For sure not!  There is no question that if someone omitted a bracha, he has thereby ruined the Shmoneh Esrei and it cannot be “fixed” by inserting it into Shma Koleinu.  A Shmoneh Esrei has to be a Shmoneh Esrei, and without all the brachos, it simply isn’t.  What we see, then, from the fact that v’sein tal u’matar can be made up in Shma Koleinu, is that the omission of v’sein tal u’matar from Bareich Aleinu does not make it as if you are now missing that bracha.  The bracha is still in place, just you still have a chiyuv to say v’sein tal u’matar. What could come out, then, is that what Reb Chaim means is that when one omits v’sein tal u’matar (completely), the requirement to daven again is because he does not have a kiyum of teffilah, he did not fulfill his obligation of davening a proper Shmoneh Esrei.  However, it could nevertheless be that it was still in fact a cheftzah of teffilah; the Shmoneh Esrei that he davened did not become null and void, and therefore may well be a valid enough of a context in which he could fulfill his obligation of mei’ein ha’meorah of yaaleh v’yavo. (Audio recording)


Quotables                 “Even if you have the biggest nefilah imaginable, you can and should still pick yourself up and continue right from where you left off.”


Vignettes                     Rav Twersky once recounted for us the well-known story of the great tzaddik who bought an esrog for an enormous amount of money, despite his family’s dire financial straits. When his wife found out about this, she was so upset, that she threw the esrog to the ground. The pitom broke off and rendered the esrog unfit for the mitzvah. The tzaddik did not display any anger whatsoever. Explaining his behavior, he said, ‘I don’t have the money now, and I don’t have the esrog now. So, what, I should also not have my shalom bayis?!’ Rav Twersky’s commentary on that story was this: ‘There are three possible ways one could understand this tzaddik’s ability to not react in anger under the circumstances. Possibility number one is that he was simply a Malach, blessed with incredibly refined middos. Possibility number two is that his awareness of Hashem’s presence was so strong to the extent that it was such a tangible reality for him that it was simply not possible to stumble in anger. And possibility number three is that he would regularly engage in behavior modification exercises. In other words, he deliberately trained himself in self-control to the point where not reacting with an angry outburst become his natural reaction.” (Reb Chaim Rosen)