Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Vayera : Prayer
Volume XVII, No. 4
20 Marcheshvan 5763
October 26, 2002
Dr. and Mrs. David Maslow, in memory of their fathers
Archie Maslow a"h (18 Marcheshvan)
and Samuel Holstein (25 Marcheshvan)
Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family, in memory of
mother-in-law and grandmother, Chana Dimont a"h
father and grandfather, Rabbi Louis Tarshish a"h
and grandmother and great-grandmother, Chaya Sarah Tarshish a"h
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Sanhedrin 45
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Eruvin 2
One of the events described in this week's parashah is
Avraham's prayer for the inhabitants of Sodom. From one of the
verses in this incident, our Sages derive the law that a person
should have a set location for prayer. R' Tzaddok Hakohen z"l
(1823-1900) notes that there is some irony in learning a halachah
about davening from Avraham's prayer for Sodom. After all,
Avraham's prayer on that occasion seemingly was unsuccessful.
However, there is a lesson here: no prayer goes entirely
unanswered. In this case, Avraham's tefilah saved Lot, an
ancestor of mashiach. (Pri Tzadik)
R' Meshulam Yissachar Horowitz z"l (page 4) once explained the
role of prayer with a parable. On one occasion, in the middle of
Selichot during the Ten Days of Repentance, R' Horowitz stopped
the shaliach tzibbur / leader of the prayers, opened up the aron
kodesh, and said, with tears pouring from his eyes:
"Master of the Universe! There was once a king who had an only
son. This son was very naughty, and he would accept no rebuke.
Eventually, he adopted a crooked lifestyle and began associating
with women who were unfit for a prince. Left with no choice, the
king banished his son to a faraway province.
"The prince wandered from town to town, and his situation went
from bad to worse. He had nothing but the clothes on his back,
and these soon turned to rags. As a result of his suffering, his
entire physical appearance changed and he could not even be
recognized for who he was.
"Unable to cope, the prince returned to his father heartbroken
and contrite. But his father, too, did not recognize the pauper
in rags who stood before him. The prince pleaded, `Father, if
you do not recognize my appearance, for it has changed so, at
least recognize my voice, which has not changed!'
"We are that prince," said R' Horowitz. "We have strayed and
have been exiled, and our appearance has changed in our exile
until we can no longer be recognized. But we still have our
voice, our prayers! May G-d recognize us through them." (Quoted
in Melizei Aish)
"Hashem appeared to him [Avraham] . . . while he was sitting
at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day." (18:1)
The midrash states: "Hashem came to visit the sick. Rabbi
Chama bar Chanina said, `It was the third day after his
What is Rabbi Chama bar Chanina teaching us in the midrash?
Why is it important that it was the third day?
R' Bezalel ben R' Shlomo z"l (Poland; early 1600's) explains:
The Gemara states that a person who is ill should keep that fact
secret at first. Only if he is sick for more than one day should
he publicize his illness and ask others to pray for him. In
light of this Gemara, Rabbi Chama bar Chaninah was bothered: Why
was Avraham sitting near the door of his tent, thereby
publicizing his condition? The answer is that it was already the
third day of his illness and he no longer had to keep his illness
Another question: Our Sages state that Avraham wore a jewel
around his neck, and any sick person who looked at it was cured
of whatever ailed him. After Avraham died, our Sages continue,
Hashem hung that stone from the sun. If so, asks R' Bezalel, how
is it possible that Avraham was sick for three days? Why didn't
he look at the stone that hung around his neck and thereby be
The answer is that our Sages' statement about the stone [like
many midrashim] is actually a metaphor. Avraham did not really
have a stone around his neck that cured physical ailments.
Rather, Avraham's throat, i.e., his voice -- in particular, his
teachings about G-d's Providence and His active involvement in
man's affairs -- cured his contemporaries' spiritual ills. After
Avraham died, Hashem hung that stone from the sun. In other
words, man can learn the same lessons about G-d's Providence from
observing nature -- for example, by noting the reliable rising
and setting of the sun.
Yet another midrash comments on our verse: "`While he was
sitting at the entrance of his tent' - Avraham opened up good
openings for passers-by and he opened up good openings for
converts. Therefore, `in the heat of the day.' If not for
Avraham, says Hashem, I would not have created the sun, as it is
written (Tehilim 19:5), `He has set up a tent for the sun'."
What does this midrash mean?
R' Bezalel explains that the lesson of this midrash is related
to the midrash quoted above. Through his teachings, Avraham
opened up the horizons of his contemporaries and caused them to
recognize Hashem and His control over nature. It was to support
Avraham's arguments that Hashem created the sun as we know it.
(Amudehah Shivah: Amud Ha'rishon, No. 4)
"For I [Hashem] have loved him [Avraham], because he
commands his children and his household after him that they
keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice . . ."
R' Aharon Roth z"l (the Toldos Aharon Rebbe) notes that G-d did
not say, "For I have loved him because he went into the burning
furnace," or "I loved him because he is destined to offer his son
as a sacrifice." Even greater than those accomplishments was the
fact that he taught his children and household to go in the way
of Hashem. This should impress upon us the importance of
educating our own children to follow the Torah.
(Quoted in Imrei Aharon Al Ha'Torah)
"A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day. It is good to thank
Hashem and to sing praise to Your Name, O Exalted One, to
relate Your kindness in the dawn and Your emunah / faith in
R' Yechezkel Sarna z"l (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva in
Yerushalayim) observes: Given this psalm's introduction, "A
psalm, a song for the Sabbath day," one would not expect such a
seemingly mundane message as what follows. Where is the song of
the Sabbath day?
He answers: This question originates from our misunderstanding
about the nature of the songs that appear in the Torah. We are
used to thinking, for example, that the song that Bnei Yisrael
sang at the Red Sea was a song about the miracles that occurred
there. Similarly, we think that each of the other songs in the
Torah was a song that commemorated a certain event. This is not
so! Rather, all of the songs that our ancestors sang were
expressions of their innate emunah / faith in G-d. The miracles
that inspired those songs were simply tools for helping our
ancestors recognize that buried feeling of emunah.
The Midrash Mechilta comments on the opening verse of the Song
at the Sea (Shmot 15:1): `Then Moshe and Bnei Yisrael chose to
sing this song' - Did they sing only this song? No, they sang
ten songs!" The midrash then proceeds to list songs that were
sung by the Jewish people or their leaders at various times in
history. [How can it be said that Bnei Yisrael sang all of these
songs at the Red Sea?] This midrash is teaching that all the
songs mentioned in Tanach really are one song.
The connection between song and emunah is alluded to in Shir
Ha'shirim / "The Song of Songs" (4:8): "Tashuri mai'rosh Amanah."
Literally, this means, "Observe from the peak of Amanah [the name
of a mountain]." However, the midrash says that "Mai'rosh
Amanah" refers to Avraham, the "head" or "forerunner" of those
who have emunah. In addition, notes R' Sarna, the word "Tashuri"
is related (at least by its sound) to the word "Tashiri" / "You
shall sing." Thus, the verse may be read: "You shall sing
because of the faith you inherited from Avraham" - the inborn
faith mentioned above.
When song is understood in this way, the song of the Sabbath is
more readily understood. Shabbat is the most basic expression of
faith, and it is fitting that its song should express the most
basic statement of faith.
(Daliyot Yechezkel III p.6)
R' Meshulam Yissachar Horowitz z"l
R' Meshulam Yissachar Horowitz was born in 1805 or 1808 in
Stanislau, Galicia (now Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine), where his
father was rabbi. It is recorded that he was a mischievous child
who was not interested in learning. As a teenager, however, he
began to learn avidly, often studying for 16 hours without an
interruption. After his marriage, he continued to study while
his wife attempted to support their family. Although he received
semichah at age 18 from R' Yaakov Lorberbaum of Lissa and other
leading sages, R' Meshulam claimed that he was unqualified to
seek a rabbinic post. Eventually, though, his poverty became so
great that R' Meshulam's father secretly arranged his son's
appointed to the rabbinate. Presented with a signed contract
back-up by his father's command that he accept it, R' Meshulam
became rabbi of Zelozitz in 1827.
In approximately 1840, R' Meshulam was called to Stanislau to
serve as Assistant Rabbi under his aging father. Soon after, he
was elected rabbi of Tismanitz. During his time there, his fame
spread until even R' Shlomo Kluger, one of the leading halachic
authorities of mid-19th century Galicia sought his opinion. In
1844, R' Meshulam returned to Stanislau to succeed his father,
who had passed away. R' Meshulam was succeeded in Tismanitz by
his young son, R' Shaul, who would hold the rabbinate in that
town for 43 years.
R' Meshulam was beloved by his congregants, who told stories of
miracles that he brought about. He was opposed to chassidut and
he prevented the movement's spread into Stanislau. Nevertheless,
he had cordial relations with a number of chassidic rebbes.
Although his primary occupation was Torah study, he was also
known for the beauty of his prayers. At times, people would
eavesdrop under his windows just to hear him daven.
When the Machzikei Ha'das organization (considered by some to
be a forerunner of Agudath Israel) was founded, R' Meshulam
participated in its deliberations, but he later withdrew over
political differences. At the convention of 1880, he proposed
that the organization's charter be written in Hebrew (rather than
Yiddish), but his proposal was defeated. He died in 1888,
leaving distinguished children and several written works.
(Sources: Encyclopedia Le'Chachmei Galicia; Melizei Aish).
Copyright © 2002 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ("lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah"), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Project Genesis
start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Text archives from 1990 through the present
may be retrieved from
to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.