Vayeira: Moshiach from Sodom?



    Vayeira: Moshiach from Sodom?

    This week’s reading begins with three angels coming to visit Abraham recovering from his painful circumcision at the age of ninety-nine (!). The two angels that healed Abraham and announced the birth of his son were important to Judaism so it’s understandable why they came. But why was the third angel sent to Abraham? Why didn’t he go straight to Sodom? Read the full Dvar Torah by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton • Full Article

    By Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

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    This week’s reading begins with three angels coming to visit Abraham recovering from his painful circumcision at the age of ninety-nine (!).

    One angel came to heal him and to save his nephew Lot from Sodom and the second came to inform his wife Sarah that she would give birth to a son (Yitzchak).

    But the third came to destroy Sodom and the evil cities surrounding it, which seemingly had nothing to do with Abraham.

    The two angels that healed Abraham and announced the birth of his son were important to Judaism so it’s understandable why they came. But why was third angel sent to Abraham? Why didn’t he go straight to Sodom?

    Even more, it’s not clear why the negative stories of Sodom and Amora, and of Lot impregnating his two daughters that comes afterwards are in the Torah at all.

    Torah means ‘Teaching’ and these awful stories seem to have no beneficial message to the Jewish people or to mankind what-so-ever.

    To understand this here is a story. (Shmuot and Sipurim 1:64, and Sipurim Nora’im; pg 142, Tzemach Tzedik).

    Some three hundred years ago in the Ukraine, a holy genius Jew by the name of Yisroel Baal Shem began preaching a refreshing sort of Judaism.

    He taught that each and every Jew is holy and each and every creation, occurrence and detail in the world contains messages of inspiration which can be unlocked only by the proper faith in Gd, understanding His Torah and connection to the ‘Moses’ of each generation. All the Rebbes of Chabad were examples of this.

    The third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem Mendel nicknamed the “Tzemach Tzedek”.

    He, like all the Chabad Rebbes before and after him, was fluent in all aspects of the Torah and matters of the world and his only interest was to relieve Jews of their difficulties and fill their minds and hearts with Torah and faith.

    People flocked to him from far and wide with questions and difficulties. But one of the greatest of difficulties was that of ‘Agunot’, estranged wives.

    According to the Torah, a married woman whose husband abandons her can never remarry unless there is either proof of divorce or of his death. Agunot are women that have neither. So, with children to feed and with no source of income such women were doomed to a life of poverty and loneliness and were desperate for salvation.

    At first the Tzemach Tzedek did not take such cases but later he changed his mind when his wife fell ill and on the verge of death said to him. “I’m sick from the suffering you cause to Agunot by refusing to see them.”

    The Rebbe changed his mind, his wife’s illness disappeared and agunas began flooding in.

    One of them appeared at his door accompanied by her brother begging and crying that he release her from her plight. Her husband had left her several years ago alone with a small child and no means of support and hadn’t been heard from since.

    The Rebbe thought for a moment, looked at her sadly and answered, ‘I’m sorry, I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. How can I possibly know where your husband is?’

    She was broken but her brother, realizing that the case was closed, decided to at least try his luck, “Rebbe, can you at least give a blessing? I want to go to Israel and my sister will be alone. Can you give us your blessing?”

    “Israel?” answered the Rebbe, “If so, my opinion is that you should take your sister with you, perhaps you will find her husband on the way.”

    And he blessed them with a successful trip.

    In a few weeks the three of them, brother and sister and her small son, began the arduous land journey. But somewhere on the road  they realized that they had overlooked the fact that her son was not mentioned in her passport and in major port cities like Odessa where they planned to embark by ship this presented a major obstacle.

    The only solution was to send her and her child to the smaller city of Yaas where she would certainly be able to board a ship while he would embark from Odessa as he planned, would arrive in Israel before she did, would prepare lodging for them both then meet her at the port when she arrived and everything would be fine.

    But she would have no part of it. She began to weep and plead that he not leave her alone until he reluctantly agreed to forfeit his plans and his ticket, take the longer journey and travel together with her to secure passage on a ship from the smaller port of Yaas.

    As they journeyed, he remembered the words of the Tzemach Tzedek and at every town or lodging they passed through or stopped at he asked if perhaps anyone had seen a man answering to his sister’s husband’s description or name …. but with no results.

    Two days later, as they were just hours from the city of Yaas and night was falling, without noticing, their wagon bumped into a government mail coach that was parked, for some reason, on the road.

    At first, the brother considered getting out and seeing if any damage had been done but before he could move a huge, coarse-looking fellow jumped from the coach screaming and cursing like a madman. So he sped off.

    “I think that’s my husband” his sister said, but her brother just thought the fatigue was making her imagine things. He knew her husband and that definitely was not him.

    After a just a few moments they were in the inn where they felt relatively safe and upon discovering that the innkeeper was Jewish, he asked him about the fellow in the mail coach; why it was parked in the road in the middle of the night and if he could be the man that abandoned his sister.

    “Ahh, him?” said the innkeeper. “He’s a real hard case. He used to be a Jew but he got baptized and now he’s just like an animal. He hangs around here a lot and I have no idea why he was in the road. But I can tell you one thing; if, G-d forbid, he is your sister’s husband he’ll never give a ‘Get’ (bill of divorce). No way! Unless you pay him a million dollars! He’s a real animal!”

    Suddenly the door burst open and the coachman appeared, cursing and yelling as before. But in the light of the room suddenly he recognized his wife, saw that she recognized him and became strangely placid.

    He looked sheepishly at the floor and, without being asked, offered to accompany them to a Rabbi who lived nearby and give her a divorce – without any remuneration.

    They left the inn and several hours later, after the divorce, they returned. But the innkeeper was curious. He called the coachman side and asked for an explanation; what caused him to suddenly be so cooperative and give a ‘get’ ….. and for free!

    The coachman explained.

    “You know that abandoned house about five minutes from your inn? You know; the one that everyone avoids because they say it’s haunted by evil spirits? Well, every day I pass by that place tens of times and could care less. I was not afraid at all. What have demons got to do with me?

    “But tonight as I passed it a tremendous fear fell over me. I tried to forget it, to tell myself it was superstition, to think of something else but it didn’t work. The fear doubled and redoubled. My hair stood on end and I was certain that I was about to die. I never in my life experienced anything even vaguely like it. I was paralyzed with fear.

    “But then suddenly a wagon banged into my coach and the fear disappeared like a dream.

    “I jumped out of the coach and began cursing to show that I was still the boss as though nothing happened but when I entered the inn and saw my wife, I understood that it wasn’t so simple. That fear I had, broke me, it humbled me.  When I saw her I knew it was so I would give her the divorce.”

    Then he took a wad of rubles from his pocket, approached the boy, who after all was his son, gave it to him and disappeared into the night.

    The next day the woman her son and brother continued to Yaas and from there to Israel where she married and began a new life.

    This answers our questions about the angel that destroyed Sodom and Lot’s incest.

    When Sodom was destroyed and Lot escaped with his daughters they thought the world had been destroyed and if they didn’t have children mankind would cease to exist.

    In other words, they felt the entire world depended on them. And they were right.

    One of the resultant children was Moav (18:37) from whom descended Ruth the progenitor of King David the forerunner of Moshiach who will teach each and every human being this very lesson; that the entire world depends on each and every one of us.

    Even more; Moshiach will reveal that every instant of time and every occurrence in history, even the most tragic, was really a holy and necessary step in redemption.

    As we saw in our story: the difficulties they experienced were only to bring the bad husband to his senses and bring them to the land of Israel.

    As the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote, that before he was three years old, he already had woven in his imagination how Moshiach would make sense of the thousands of years Jewish and human suffering.

    That is the reason the destroying angel came to Abraham. Because Abraham, as G-d’s representative to His creations, was the father of ALL mankind and, although the inhabitants of Sodom were evil gentiles, their suffering was his concern. (See Rashi on 18:17)

    Similarly, Moshiach will teach and benefit the entire world. He will see to it that all mankind will come to worship only the creator and, as in our story, that all difficulties and tragedies will transform into blessings.

    And now not much is lacking. After thousands of years of Jewish self-sacrifice and suffering it could be that just one more good deed, word or even good thought can bring….  Moshiach NOW!

    Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
    Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
    Kfar Chabad, Israel

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