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Friday - Shabbat November 6 - 7


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Torah Reading: VaYera (Genesis  18:1 - 22:24)
Candle Lighting  4:28 PM
Shabbat ends 5:28 PM



Laugh Last


At the end of last week’s Parshah, Abraham was told by G‑d that he would father a child at the age of 100 and he laughed. Interestingly, G‑d did not hold this laughter against him or view it as some sort of Chutzpah. By contrast, in this week’s Parsha, when Sarah hears that she—at the age of 90—would become a mother, she also laughed. After this laughter, G‑d “called her on the carpet” for apparently expressing some doubt about His ability to give her a child.
Rashi and many other commentators raise the question why G‑d “discriminated” against Sarah and took her to task for her laughter and yet He did not react negatively to Abraham’s laughter. The question is even stronger when we consider the fact that it was a far greater miracle for Sarah to become a mother at the age of 90 than it was for Abraham to become a father at the age of 100. After all, Abraham already had a child at the age of 86, whereas Sarah never had one.
Rashi’s answer is that Abraham’s laughter was motivated by joy, whereas Sarah’s laughter was an expression of doubt.
Chassidic commentators go a step further when they explain that Sarah’s laughter had been subconscious; she herself was not aware of the fact that she had laughed.
There is another Chassidic approach that points to the spiritual differences between Sarah and Abraham. While they are both holy and represent the highest a human being can reach in closeness and devotion to G‑d, there was a difference in their approach and in the expectations G‑d had of them. G‑d had greater expectations of Sarah than he had for Abraham. His faulting of Sarah for laughing was due to the higher spiritual position she occupied in comparison to Abraham.
The following exposition is partially based on the Chassidic work, Bat Ayin (from Rabbi Avraham Dov of Avrush, a disciple of Rabbi Nochum of Chernobyl, a leading disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s successor, the Maggid of Mezeritch).
Having a child at the age of ninety was clearly a miracle of immense proportions. In the eyes of a righteous person they are never worthy of G‑d performing a miracle for them. The holier a person is, the more they feel unworthy of special treatment.
There are exceptions to this rule.
When a person’s life seems to be governed by different rules; when miracles become commonplace because they are recurrent, even the righteous accept them and do not doubt G‑d’s ability to continue performing them. To them miracles are natural.
From the time Abraham miraculously escaped the fiery furnace into which he had been thrown by King Nimrod because he refused to accede to his demands that he worship idols, Abraham knew that his life operated on a supra-rational level. His life was not governed by the norms of nature. This pattern, we might add, continued when he fought the alliance of four kings who had taken his nephew Lot captive.
However, even the most righteous person has his ups and downs. When Abraham went down to Egypt because of the famine he feared that the Egyptians would kill him in order to take Sarah. According to the Zohar, Abraham was not concerned about Sarah because he knew that she was righteous and G‑d would protect her. He was less confident about his own worthiness to be miraculously spared a horrible fate at the hands of the immoral Egyptians.
What was it that caused Abraham to think he was not worthy? Wasn’t he the beneficiary of so many miracles in the past? Why would he think that it would be different now?
Based on the foregoing exposition of the work Bat Ayin, it was likely attributed to the fact that when he descended into Egypt, which was then the most depraved and immoral country in the world, he felt that his spiritual level had declined. He was now not so sure that the pattern of miracles would continue for him.
The same phenomenon repeated itself when Abraham was told by G‑d that he would have a child. Abraham, at that time had already fathered Yishmael who was a negative influence in Abraham’s home and life. In Abraham’s mind, Yishmael’s influence had affected him as well. He was no longer above the realm of nature. In his mind, miracles were now beyond him. Abraham was, according to his own thinking, no different from any other person who was bound by the laws of nature.
Indeed, this is hinted in the fact that Abraham was 86 years old when he had Yishmael. The number 86 is the gematria, numerical equivalent, of the word hateva-which means nature, or “the natural.” It is also the gematria of G‑d’s name Elokim; the name associated with G‑d’s involvement in the process of creation.
Thus, specifically because of his son Yishamel, Abraham felt spiritually deficient and thought that at this point in his life, he was unworthy of the super natural blessing of fathering a child.
And while Abraham certainly knew that G‑d could perform miracles for anyone if He so chooses, the righteous and humble Abraham felt uncomfortable with the notion that he would undeservedly be the beneficiary of a miracle. 
In a certain way, Abraham was right. Of course, Abraham was not really effected by Yishamel and was just as holy as ever, worthy of any and all miracles that G‑d might send his way. But in order to bring down the special and holy soul of our next Patriarch, Isaac, Abraham needed an extra boost of spirituality, he needed to graduate to an entirely different spiritual high. In order to reach that height, G‑d gave Abraham the commandment to circumcise himself and his family members. This, he was told by G‑d, would make him a tamim, a whole person. He would be able rise even higher above the constraints of nature – not only to be able to father a child at the age of 100, but to bring down the unique and powerful soul of our Father Isaac into this world.
Because Abraham’s skepticism about fathering a child at the age of 100 was based on honest self-evaluation—that led him to the conclusion that he was at that time not capable of rising above nature in his uncircumcised state—he was not faulted for laughing, for indeed - in some fine, minute way, he was right. There was some new level of spirituality he would only be able to reach after his circumcision.
G‑d therefore tells him to circumcise himself and his entire household, including, of course, Yishmael. In this circumcised state, Abraham could indeed transcend the boundaries of nature and sire a child, a child that would be the next link in the chain of the Jewish nation.
Sarah, on the other hand, was on a higher level than Abraham. Moreover, the incident with Sarah occurred after Abraham and Yishmael had been transformed by circumcision. It was therefore unbecoming for her to have laughed when she heard she was going to become a mother at the age of 90.
When we hear of the predictions that have been made by our greatest leaders that we are poised to enter into the Messianic Age, an age of miracles, we can react with incredulity just as Abraham and Sarah did when they were told that they would become parents at their age. We might find it hard to believe that we are worthy of such extraordinary events happening in our lifetime.
The answer to this challenge is twofold:
First, even if we feel we have been adversely affected and influenced by the negative forces in society today, we do not have to fear. For as a people we are indeed worthy. The amount of pain and suffering we have endured—represented by the Mitzvah of circumcision—makes us eminently suited for miracles and Moshiach.
Second, if we feel that as individuals we are lacking in our spiritual life, we can correct that by “circumcising” ourselves. This means that in addition to the need to be physically circumcised, we need to apply that to our moral and spiritual lives as well. And then we will certainly be worthy of miracles.
And from this laughter we will soon experience genuine laughter and joy that is associated with the future Redemption and Moshiach, as the Psalmist says: “Then we will fill our mouths with laughter.”


Moshiach Matters  

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) tells us that in the future, G‑d will reveal the secrets of the Torah through Moshiach. The Rambam, in his commentary on the Mishnah (Sanhedrin) says the same
thing: “Wondrous (Torah teachings) will be revealed through him (Moshiach).”
(Likkutei Sichos, vol. 22, pg. 76, note 10,11)

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