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Parshas Lech Lecho

21/10/09 10:14:10


Rabbi Pesach Siegel


Avrohom Avenu upon emerging victorious from the war against the four kings, (Amrofel-Nimrod, Aryoch, K'dorleomer, and Sidal) is greeted by the King of S'dom whom he saved. He makes Avrohom a generous offer. "Return the captives to me and all the plunder is yours". Avrohom's response is not slow in coming. "I lift up my arm to Hashem upon high, creator of the Heavens and Earth, if I will accept from a thread to a shoe string from all which is yours lest you should lay claim that you enrichened Avrom". (1)

Avrohom's refusal was not due to being hesitant of accepting presents from others (Soneh matanos yichyeh), or from the fact that the King of S'dom was a wicked individual. He had no compunction for receiving gifts from Pharaoh or from Avimelech the king of the Pelishtim. (2) The sole reason was, as stated, not to allow the impression that his riches were from the King of S'dom instead of from Hashem.

Let us delve a bit further into the matter.

Avrohom Avenu lifted up his arm in an oath. The word used to describe this is "Harimosi" - I lifted up. The commentary of the Baal Haturim notes that the word in this form appears only one other time in the Torah.

In Parshas VaYeshev, Yosef Hatzaddik was set upon by his master's wife. She was intent on producing children through him. (3) At a certain point Yosef decisively took action in order to completely sever all contact with her. He ran away. She summoned the men of the house and related her false version of the event.

"Behold you have brought a Hebrew into the house to mock us. He attempted to force himself upon me and I called out in a loud voice. When he heard me raise my voice - "Harimosi", as I called out, he left his garment in my possession, ran, and went outside." (4)

On the basis of the identical words being present in the two places the Baal HaTurim makes a comparison between the two. Just as Avrohom Avenu lifted up his hand for the sake of heaven - L'shem Shamayim, so too, the wife of Potifar's intent was for the good.

Why would the Torah choose to point out the intent of Potifar's wife in desiring Yosef via a comparison to Avrohom refusing the riches offered to him by the King of S'dom? In addition, although the word "Harimosi" is the same in both places one refers to the raising of a hand and the other to the raising of a voice.

Although the raising of one's hand, as in Avrohom's case, is an expression of taking an oath, perhaps another significance lies beneath the surface.

The benevolence that the world is blessed to receive from the Creator is expressed as being extended by His outstretched hand. As we say in "Ashrei" - "Poseiach es yodecha umasbia l'chol chai ratzon" - Open your hands and satiate all living creatures with your will. As well as in Birchas Hamazon" - "Ki im l'yodcha hamlea" - We look for sustenance only from your hands.

There are two types of "hands". Those that give and those that take. The giver has the upper hand. He spreads of his benevolence to the hands extended below. Hashem is the ultimate giver. He gives constantly and takes nothing in return. He is the source of everything.

Avrohom Avenu dedicated his life to emulating the traits of the Creator, especially the middas hachessed - benevolence. Man was created "b'tzelem Elokim" - in the image of G-d, possessing the ability to raise himself up from amidst his animalistic nature thereby attaining a state of loftiness. Hashem created our world with chessed, He maintains it with chessed, He is a constant source of chessed.

One who wishes to bring forth the "Godliness" within himself does so by being a paradigm of chessed. Being a giver and not a taker. His hand is held up high to share of his benevolence with others down below. The motive of the King of S'dom in offering Avrohom Avenu all the spoils of war was in order to set up a counter force, a block, to the attainment by Avrohom Avenu of the level of "tzelem Elokim". To turn Avrohom Avenu into a recipient of the King of S'dom. In response to this, Avrohom lifted up his hand.

The wife of Potifar recognized the unique role of the descendants of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov in creation. It was revealed to her via certain unpure forces in creation that she would produce children through a union with Yosef. She mistakenly assumed that it would come about through herself, personally.

Ever since Adam ate from the forbidden fruit man has been tainted. He no longer is openly identified as one who has been formed in G- d's image. There is a part of him which identifies more with being a sophisticated animal than being one created "b'tzelem Elokim".

The entire passage of the days of this world is geared towards the winnowing of the grain from the chaff, the human from the animalistic, the emergence of the image of G-d from under the layers which deeply bury it.

The external physical differences between a human and an animal appear to be minor ones. One outstanding feature of a human is the intellect and his ability to express it with the power of speech.

The raising of her voice, by Potifar's wife was not one of decibel level. She was attempting to demonstrate that she is worthy of joining those who rise above the lowly and mundane. Her power of speech is on a raised level and she is fit to contribute to the formation of Klal Yisroel. Her intentions were good.

But she was mistaken. Indeed, she possessed the spark of humanity that when joined with the children of the Avos would serve to complete them, but his spark had to be further refined, it had to pass through another generation and be passed down to her daughter who was the one destined to marry Yosef Hatzaddik.

Perhaps we can now understand the relationship between the raising up of Avrohom Avenu's hand and the voice of the wife of Potifar. They represent Avrohom Avenu steadfastly refusing to surrender his humanity by being on the receiving end of the King of S'dom and Potifar's wife's struggle to join that very humanity.

(1) Perek 14, posuk 22
(2) Perek 12, posuk 13 - Rashi. Perek 20, posuk 14
(3) Perek 39, posuk 1 - Rashi
(4) Perek 39, posuk 12-15

Mon, August 10 2020 20 Av 5780