Illuminations #96, Tishrei 5777, Parshat Vayeira

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Illuminations #96, Tishrei 5777, Parshat Vayeira

Torah Gems

Avraham Avinu was the עמוד החסד, the pillar of kindness. When the three by passersby passed his way, Avraham got out and ran after them to host them, and he prepared for them a lavish meal. All this, while he was in recovery from the circumcision he went through at the age of 99, on the third day which is the most painful. Still, that did not stop him from having strangers in his house. What kindness!

A man approached the Satmer Rav after having visited Saint Louis and told him, “There is a man in Saint Louis that opened a guest house for anyone who needs, Jews and gentiles. Such חסד kindness!”
The Satmer Rav asked, “Is this man observing the Torah and its commandments?” “No,” the man replied. The Rav continued, “In that case, where is this kindness coming from? What is the source of this kindness? If it is not based upon the Torah laws it is not kindness.”

The point the Rav was making is that when a person wants to do good, he should do so following the Torah, as opposed to doing good because of his instincts, because that is not how a Torah Jew should lead his life. Rather,to lead one’s life because the Torah said it is the right thing, by doing so it’ll be done according to the Torah’s laws.

Parsha Pearls

Sara saw that Ishmael was playing with Yitzhak and having a bad influence on him, and she told Avraham he needed to kick out Hagar and her son.
The decision was not easy for Avraham, whose motto was חסד, kindness, especially with his own son, to send him away out of his house.
However, Avraham had to follow the request of Sara because it was the correct thing to do, to shield and protect his young son Yitzchak.
A great lesson can be learned from this. When it comes to parenting our own children, we need to protect them and shield them from any exposure, even from a friend who may be a good kid but has been influenced by videos or other outside ideas. This may be a difficult task especially while trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings during this process, however it cannot be more difficult then Avraham Avinu’s decision to send out his own son from his home and into the wild.

Glimpses of Greatness

Emunat Chachamim

Rav Ephraim Hakohen, born in Baghdad in 1885, was among the greatest scholars of the previous generation in Baghdad. Later in his life he earned the title Rosh Hamekubalim in the great Yeshiva, Porat Yosef, in Jerusalem.

Rav Ephraim’s parents were very poor, and the family was forced to move to another city hoping to earn a better living. Rav Ephraim faced a major dilemma because that city had no Bet Hamidrash or talmidei chachamim. How would he learn there? If he stayed in Baghdad, how would he support himself? The few dollars he would receive there would not provide enough for even his simple needs.

As always, he went to the Ben Ish Chai for advice, and his answer was clear: “Do not go with them. Hashem will help.” Rav Ephraim followed this advice, but eventually his financial condition became extremely difficult and reached the point where he was ready to give up. Nevertheless, he refused to ask for charity, and no one knew how bad the situation had become.

During this time, the Ben Ish Chai passed away. In the midst of his crisis, Rav Ephraim cried out to his beloved Rabbi, “You advised me to go on the path which I have chosen, and I did so. Now, see the difficult situation in which I find myself! I cannot pray by Your grave because I am a kohen. I ask now that you pray for me so that I will be saved!”
The next afternoon he received a telegram from his parents. It stated simply, “We are returning home.”



Halacha Weekly

Q. Which Takes Precedence: The mitzvah of Honoring Parents  or Sanctifying a Kohen?

A. IGittin (59b), the Sages say: “And you shall sanctify him [a kohen] (v’kidashto) (Vayikra 21-8) [means you shall honor the kohen] for every matter of kedushah (holiness), to start proceedings and to bless first, and to receive the first portion. ” If a Parent and a Kohen are both at a table, to whom does one give the first portion? Does one give it to one’s mother because of Kivud Av v’Eim (The Mitzvah Honoring Parents), or does one give it to the Kohen, who one has an obligation to sanctify by honoring him with the first portion? 

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 240-11) writes: ” A son [who] takes  his elderly father to his home has the obligation [of showing  precedence] to him  [his father] to wash first and to give him the first portion [of food at the table], [as with] all  other forms of honor [he is due], etc.” Both of these mitzvot are based on the Torah; how do we decide which mitzvah to perform? Shoel Umeishiv (3-16, R. Yosef Shaul Natansohn Z”L)  writes that the mitzvah of v’kidashto, sanctifying a Kohen by showing honor to a Kohen, is today (with the Temple in ruins) according to all opinions from the Rabanan (a Rabbinical obligation), and not from the Torah.

Rav Elyashiv was asked this sheilah (halachic question) in a specific case involving a mother and a Kohen  sitting at the same table. He writes another reason in Kav Naki (2-274) that one must give [the first portion] to his mother because she is certainly his mother, and perhaps the Kohen is only a Kohen because of a chazaka (assumed status), but he is not actually confirmed [as a Kohen]. Similarly, Maharam Shik (OrechChaim -59) writes that the positive mitzvah of Kivud Av, ”…Possibly takes precedence over the positive mitzvah of ‘You Shall Sanctify Him [the Kohen].'” 




This week’s Illuminations is sponsored

by Jacques Elfersy

for a refuah shleimah

for Amy Elfersy
חיה בת יעל