Parshas Vayeira

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

ויאמר כי את שבע כבשות תקח מידי בעבור תהיה לי לעדה כי חפרתי את הבאר הזאת (פרק כא פסוק ל)

Our Parsha records a discussion between Avraham and Avimelech regarding the well of water that Avraham had dug which was subsequently seized by Avimelech’s servants. After they arrive at a peaceful conclusion and Avimelech admits to Avraham’s ownership, Avraham gives him seven sheep. He explains that these seven sheep will serve as a testimony to his ownership of the well. What is the meaning of this? How will these sheep be a proof of Avraham’s ownership? R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky answers based on a גמרא in חולין (דף ז) which tells us about the donkey of רבי פנחס בן יאיר that refused to eat טבל (untithed food). We see that the animals of צדיקים are sensitive towards forbidden foods. Therefore, by Avraham giving Avimelech the sheep they would cease drinking from Avraham’s well because that would be גזל. This would clearly indicate that Avraham owns the well. This was Avraham’s intention in creating a testimony through his gift of sheep.

ויאמר קח נא את בנך…את יצחק ולך לך אל ארץ המוריה והעלהו שם לעלה… (פרק כב פסוק ב)

The Parsha concludes with the monumental story of the עקידה. This was the tenth and final test that Hashem gave to Avraham. This allowed Avraham to declare to the world with finality his absolute devotion to Hashem and His Will even to the point of sacrificing his son. Rashi, based on the Gemara, points out that Hashem told Avraham to do this with an expression of “נא” which normally indicates a request. He explains that Hashem was beseeching Avraham to pass this test lest the nations of the world say that even the first tests “אין בהם ממש”- they were not substantial. This seems very surprising. After all, time and again, Avraham put himself through various hardships and difficulties because of his strong belief in Hashem. How could anyone claim that all of those tests, the work of Avraham’s lifetime, were insignificant merely because he didn’t pass Number Ten? R’ Shimon Schwab explains that of course the first nine tests would prove to the world Avraham’s tremendous level of righteousness. However, he says, there was a much bigger idea that Hashem was trying to display through the tests. Hashem was showing that Avraham’s devotion and self-sacrifice weren’t traits that merely elevated himself, rather Avraham was imbuing his progeny with these traits. This was the true goal of the ten tests. That is what Rashi means when he says that people will say about the first tests that “אין בהם ממש”- they do not have any lasting value. It is only by the עקידה that we find “וילכו שניהם יחדיו”- Avraham and his son Yitzchak went together i.e. with the same mindset and determination to do Hashem’s will. Now we see that this incredible level of self-sacrifice that is found by Avraham was passed on to the next generation. This was the test that proved to the world that when Avraham passed all of the tests he wasn’t just developing and evolving his own growth, he was creating a legacy for Klal Yisroel forever.

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