R' David Hakochavi z"l (Southern France; 13-14th centuries)
writes: We have previously explained that Hashem, in His great
kindness to mankind, created man in His tzellem/image so that he
could follow a wholesome path and choose good over bad and truth
over falsehood. Moreover, just as He created man following a
period when nothing existed and He made man as a wondrous new
thing, so He continues this closeness with personal
hashgachah/attention to man, and through this hashgachah He does
wonders for man. In particular, His wonders can be seen in the
persons and the property of those whom He loves.
It is well known that the most important aspect of man's
creation is the fact that he was created in G-d's tzellem and
demmut/likeness and it was for this that He made the wondrous
creation. Similarly, He gives His attention and performs wonders
primarily for those who reflect His image. It is such a
relationship that G-d was describing when He said regarding
Avraham [in our parashah; verse 18:19], "For I have loved him,
because he will command his children and his household after him
to keep the way of Hashem . . ." Such a relationship is also
alluded to in the verse [Shmot 19:4], "You have seen what I did
to Egypt and that I have borne you on the wings of eagles . . ."
Further, writes R' David, once we believe that He gives His
attention and performs wonders for those who reflect His tzellem
and for their children and property, we must further believe that
He performs wonders in order to perfect our own tzellem. We can
understand, for example, that the revelation at Sinai was
primarily to perfect the human mind [which is what distinguishes
man from animals and therefore is the clearest manifestation of
the tzellem of G-d]. Man is created with potential intelligence,
and [only] if he understands the intention of Torah and its
mitzvot will he understand fear of G-d and find sacred knowledge.
(Migdal David: Sefer Ha'emunah: Pillar IV, Ch. 1)
"Sarah laughed inside . . ." (18:12)
"Sarah denied it, saying, 'I did not laugh'." (18:15)
"Sarah saw the son of Hagar . . . mocking. So she said to
Avraham, 'Drive out this slavewoman with her son . . .'"
R' Nosson Teomim z"l (the "Krystonopolyer Rav" in New York;
died 1983) asks the obvious question regarding the first two
verses quoted above: Did Sarah lie? He answers as follows:
The Ba'al Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement; died
1760) taught that one does not witness a sin unless he himself
has committed a similar sin. Thus, whenever one sees another
person commit any sin, the viewer should search his own deeds for
a similar iniquity (albeit, perhaps of lesser severity) and
repent for it.
Yitzchak's proper upbringing required that his half-brother
Yishmael be expelled from Avraham's home. However, this would
not happen unless either Avraham or Sarah saw Yishmael "mocking."
Accordingly, Hashem brought about a circumstance that caused
Sarah herself to mock; after she had committed this small sin,
even inadvertently, it would be possible for her to witness
Yishmael's sin and to take the first step toward expelling
Yishmael from the household.
Of course, Sarah never meant to mock, and she therefore denied
that she had laughed (meaning that she had not laughed
inappropriately). This also allows us to understand why Avraham
resisted expelling Yishmael; he had never had the opportunity to
see Yishmael mock.
"And G-d said, 'Shall I conceal from Avraham that which I
plan to do'?!"
"And Avraham said, 'Behold I have dared to speak to my
Master though I am nothing but dirt and dust'." (18:17,27)
R' Bachya ibn Pakudah z"l (Spain; 11th century) writes: This
pair of verses demonstrates one of the five ways that we may
judge whether a person who appears to be humble really is so.
Those five are:
(1) How one reacts when another injures him - does the injured
party restrain his anger despite having the ability to take
(2) How one reacts when his property is damaged or lost or a
family member is (G-d forbid) hurt or killed - does he moderate
his anguish and accept Hashem's decree with love? (This is what
Aharon did when two of his sons were killed, as the verse says,
"And Aharon was still" (Vayikra 10:3).);
(3) How a person handles his reputation. There are several
aspects to this test.
First, if one is praised for a good deed which he did, he
should feel that it is much ado about nothing. After all, no
person approaches the fulfillment of his mission in this world,
so why create a stir over one good deed?! Furthermore, it is
possible that this good deed was done for a selfish motive
(either conscious or subconscious) in which case it is worth a
great deal less in the eyes of G-d (although no good deed goes
Second, it goes without saying that if a person is praised for
a good deed which was not his doing that he must react and say:
"It's bad enough that my own deeds are lacking! Please don't
attribute to me that which is not mine."
Third, if a person is criticized for a bad deed which he did,
let him not make excuses. Rather, one should face up to his
mistakes and make amends for them.
Finally, if a person is accused of a sin which he did not
commit, let him be patient and say: "Thank G-d that He saved me
from committing the sin which you ascribe to me, just as He has
always been kinder to me than I deserve for Him to be.
Therefore, please spare your own soul and do not speak this
lashon hara about me, for the punishment for such speech is very
(4) How a person reacts when he is given gifts in which most
people would take pride - does he allow himself to become
conceited? (This was Avraham's test when Hashem decided not to
destroy S'dom without first telling Avraham. Although Avraham
was given the gifts of prophecy, wisdom, and Eretz Yisrael (among
others), he still thought of himself as mere "dust of the
(5) How one reacts if he commits a sin for which a human court
cannot punish him (for example, if there were no witnesses) - is
he happy that he escaped punishment? One should hope that Hashem
will take whatever steps are necessary to cleanse him of his sin.
(Chovot HaLevavot, Sha'ar Hacheniah, ch. 7,
as explained by the commentary Lev Tov)
"Hashem rained on S'dom and Amorah sulfur and fire, from
Hashem, out of heaven." (19:24)
Rashi writes: "First rain, then it became sulfur and fire."
R' Shalom Mordechai Schwadron z"l (1913-1997; the "Maggid" of
The Maggid Speaks series) explains that this was a manifestation
of Hashem's kindness. When the rain started to fall, the people
of S'dom and the neighboring towns had the opportunity to repent.
[It should be noted that this occurred after the first day of
Pesach, when rain is unusual in Eretz Yisrael.] When they failed
to repent, the rain turned to sulphur and fire.
We find that the same thing occurred at the beginning of the
Deluge. First the rain started lightly, and then, when the
people did not take heed, the rain became heavier.
R' Yisrael Salanter z"l (1810-1883; founder of the mussar
movement) once was invited to eat the Friday night meal at the
home of one of his wealthy students. R' Salanter answered that
he does not accept such invitations unless he knows every detail
of how the household is run.
The student began to describe his household: "We follow every
detail of halachah. I buy my meat from so-and-so. The meat is,
of course, glatt. My cook is an observant woman, the widow of a
Torah scholar. On top of that, my wife checks the kitchen
regularly and pays attention to everything.
"On Friday nights, my table is set regally. After every
course, there are divrei Torah. In addition, we have a lesson in
Shulchan Aruch before dessert. Of course, we also sing zemirot
and our meal ends very late."
"I will come to your house," said R' Salanter, "if you will
shorten your meal by two hours."
Having no real choice, the student agreed. That Friday night,
they rushed through the meal, and in less than an hour, they were
ready to recite Birkat Hamazon. Before they began, the host
turned to his guest and asked. "Tell me! What fault did you find
with my routine that you made me change it?"
In response, R' Salanter called to the cook and said, "I'm
terribly sorry that you had to rush the meal on my account,
serving each course without a rest."
"To the contrary," the cook exclaimed. "May you be blessed
many times over. I am exhausted from my long day's work, yet on
ordinary Friday nights, I do not get home until very late.
Thanks to you, I am now free to go home and rest."
Based on this story, writes R' Yaakov Baifus shlita, we can
understand why, in our parashah (18:4), Avraham says, "Let a
little water be taken." As is apparent from the use of the
passive voice, Avraham did not intend to draw the water himself.
He intended for a servant to do it. Even when Avraham was
serving guests, he remembered to consider the feelings of the
members of his household, and he therefore offered his guests
only a little water.
(Yalkut Lekach Tov p. 75)
Dr. and Mrs. David Maslow in memory of their fathers
Archie Maslow a"h (18 Marcheshvan)
and Samuel Holstein a"h (25 Marcheshvan)
Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family in memory of
mother-in-law and grandmother, Chana Dimont a"h
and father and grandfather, Rabbi Louis Tarshish a"h