A couple of thoughts regarding the destruction of Sedom which is of course in this week’s Parsha. I saw an incredible Vort in the Divrei Yoel from the Satmar Rebbe. Everyone knows that Avraham Avinu Davened that if there would be Tzaddikim in Sedom it would be saved despite the fact that he knew that there were no Tzaddikim in the city. Numerous Mefarshim say that still his Tefilla was to be Poel for some unknown future time. That is the Hakdama to this Vort.
The Satmar Rebbe asked a question on Parshas Netzavim. In Parshas Netzavim we have the end of the Tochacha, and there we find that the Posuk talks about the Dor Ho’acharon, the last generation so to speak, the generation before Moshiach. The time of the difficulties that will precede Moshiach’s coming. The Posuk there mentions a number of difficulties and one of them is 29:22 (גָּפְרִית וָמֶלַח, שְׂרֵפָה כָל-אַרְצָהּ–לֹא תִזָּרַע וְלֹא תַצְמִחַ, וְלֹא-יַעֲלֶה בָהּ כָּל-עֵשֶׂב: כְּמַהְפֵּכַת סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה, אַדְמָה וּצְבֹיִים, אֲשֶׁר הָפַךְ יְרוָר, בְּאַפּוֹ וּבַחֲמָתוֹ). One of the pieces of the Tochacha is that there will be a destruction similar to the destruction of Sedom. A turning over of a city and turning it into sulfar and salt.
The Satmar Rebbe asked a Kasha. He says that all of the punishments of the Tochacha have been realized over our long and bitter Galus. However, this has not happened (גָּפְרִית וָמֶלַח, שְׂרֵפָה כָל-אַרְצָהּ–לֹא תִזָּרַע וְלֹא תַצְמִחַ). The idea that Jewish cities are so destroyed that the land is not able to produce plants, this has not taken place. Are we not yet finished with the Tochacha G-d forbid?
He suggests that Avraham Avinu’s Tefillah at the end of Perek 18 was Poel. It was Poel which means that it succeeded in causing that this last step of the Tochacha not take place. What I mean to say is that Avraham Avinu was Poel that Hashem agreed that if there were would be 10 Tzadikim in a city that the punishment of Sedom would not take place. In the city of Sedomin the time of Avraham there were no 10 Tzaddikim in the city. However, in our day Boruch Hashem we have 10 Tzaddikim in the city and we have that protection. According to this Pshat, Avraham’s Tefillah was Poel for whom? For the Dor Hoacharaon, for our generation. When all of the punishments of the Tochacha have unfortunately come to pass. This the worst and last of the punishments in the Tochacha, the idea of such an utter destruction of which we can only picture as a nuclear catastrophe, such a punishment is avoided because of Avraham’s Tefillah. This is hinted at in the Posuk, because when Hakadosh Baruch Hu responds back to Avraham he says 18:26 (אִם-אֶמְצָא בִסְדֹם) if I will find in Sedom the 10 Tzaddikim. (אֶמְצָא) is a Lashon Asid (future). If he was talking about Sedom itself he would not have to say a language of Lashon Asid. The question is then what if there were Tzaddikim who weren’t there? If (אֶמְצָא) is speaking about a future time, if I will find in any place worthy of the punishment of Sedom sometime in the future, then I will avoid the punishment. This also fits well with the connection of the Posuk. The Posuk before the Ribbono Shel Olam talks to Avraham reads as follows, 18:17 (וַירוָר, אָמָר: הַמְכַסֶּה אֲנִי מֵאַבְרָהָם, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי עֹשֶׂה). Am I hiding from Avrohom what I am about to do. Why should he tell Avraham? The Posuk says 18:18 – 19 (יח וְאַבְרָהָם–הָיוֹ יִהְיֶה לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וְעָצוּם; וְנִבְרְכוּ-בוֹ–כֹּל, גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ).
(יט כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו, לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו). Hakadosh Baruch Hu says because I know that the Jewish people will come from Avrohom, therefore, I have to tell him about Sedom. What does one thing have to do with the other? What does the fact that the Jewish people come from Avraham have to do with telling him about Sedom?
According to this Vort it is absolutely beautiful. Since Klal Yisrael would come from Avraham, it was important for Avraham’s descendants that Avraham be told and given the opportunity to say and utter these beautiful Tefillos which help us to this day. This is a beautiful concept regarding the punishment of Sedom from the Satmar Rebbe.
Let’s turn to another idea that is related to Sedom from Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky. One of the Bachurim here in the Yeshiva asked me a question on the Parsha. The question relates to 18:21 at the beginning of the Parsha after Sheini. Where the Ribbono Shel Olam says (אֵרְדָה-נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה), let me go down and see what is taking place in Sedom. Rashi tells us that Hashem didn’t have to come down to see but (ארדה נא ואראה: למד לדיינים שלא יפסקו דיני נפשות אלא בראיה). It is a lesson to Dayanim that they should not Pasken Dinei Nifashos unless they see everything that they could possibly see.
So (אֵרְדָה-נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה) is a lesson not to decide to punish, until Kavayochel the Ribbono Shel Olam comes down to see for himself. The question the young man asked me is that is Posuk 21, however, we already read earlier in Posuk 16 (וַיָּקֻמוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיַּשְׁקִפוּ עַל-פְּנֵי סְדֹם). It seems that the decision to punish Sedom had already been passed. The 3 Malachaim came and one of them had the job of being the one to turn over Sedom. They headed to Sedom in previous Pesukim to when the Posuk of (אֵרְדָה-נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה) takes place and therefore, it does not seem correct that the (אֵרְדָה-נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה) would teach us that before deciding the Dayanim have to see for themselves. It seems to be a very good question. When this young man asked me the question I told him it was indeed a very good question and that I don’t have an answer.
Fortunately, this young man didn’t stop there and he asked some of his Rabbeim. One of his Rabbeim related to him something that he heard from Rav Yaakov. I don’t believe that this is printed but something he heard from Rav Yaakov in explanation of the Malachim coming to Sedom. Rav Yaakov said that the Malachim were sent to Sedom on a mission. The mission was not necessarily that Sedom would be destroyed. Sedom deserved to be destroyed. The Malachaim were sent with the hope that when they would enter the city they would bring some Kedusha to the city. The people didn’t know that they were Malachim but they were nevertheless the people who brought with them an Avir of Kedusha, who brought a spirit of Kedusha to the city. The hope was that their walking in with a spirit of Kedusha would help to cause them to turn back from their evil ways. In fact onlyLotresponded. Lot himself who was happy with the behavior of Sedom as we don’t find that he protested. He was considered one of the important people in the city (19:1) (וְלוֹט, יֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר-סְדֹם). YetLottook in these guests. So it always bothered me wasLotalways in the habit of doing this all the time. How did he move up to be an important person in the city?
Rav Yaakov said no it was the presence of the Malachim, the presence of a sense of Kedusha and that causedLotto do Teshuva. Had the city been worthy, the whole city would have had that sense and done Teshuvah. And therefore when the Malachim were sent to Sedom it was not after a decision to destroy the city, on the contrary the Malachim were sent on the hope that they would influence the city to do Teshuva. It didn’t come to pass and then the decree had to come down by Shamayim to destroy the city.
Rav Yaakov related that after WWI he was a Bachur and he and the other Bachurim from the Yeshiva who had fled Slabodka returned to Slabodka. Rav Yaakov was traveling with one of the Roshei Yeshiva and in their travels on Erev Shabbos they came to a city and found a Jew and asked him permission to stay there. This Jew was not interested in having a Rosh Yeshiva and Yeshiva Bachurim staying in his home for Shabbos and he declined and told them to leave and suggested that they make it to the next town as there was enough time before Shabbos where someone would take them in. Later, the next Rosh Hashono in Slabodka, this man who had refused to take them in for Shabbos was in the Yeshiva for Rosh Hashono and as a matter of fact was given an Aliyah on Rosh Hashono. Reb Yaakov as a young man was beside himself, this person should be honored with an Aliya? He asked and he found out the rest of the story.
After Rav Yaakov and the Rosh Hayeshiva whom he was accompanying moved on to the next city, the Alter of Slabodka (Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel 1849 – 1927, great grandfather of the Mir Rosh Yeshiva who was Niftar this week) and a group of Talmidim were travelling with him on the way back also came to the same city and they came to the same man and told him you are the only person here in town, please take us in for Shabbos. He again responded no I don’t want guests and go to the next town. But now it was too late. They would not make it to the next town for Shabbos. Somewhat reluctantly this man allowed the Alter of Slabodka and his Talmidim to stay under his roof and to stay in his home. Over Shabbos the influence of seeing the Alter of Slabodka, seeing his behavior, seeing the way he acted, seeing the way he dealt with his Talmidim, had such a profound effect on this man, that when Shabbos passed he travelled with them to Slabodka. It was then in middle of Elul and he travelled with them to Slabodka and was a changed person. Rav Yaakov recounted that event in explaining that the Malachim’s appearance inLot’s home is what got him to change.
I would add to Rav Yaakov’s Vort that this would explain Perek 2 of Sefer Yehoshua. Rochov Hazona lives in the city ofYerichoand the entire city is slated to be destroyed by Yehoshua. Two Meraglim (Kaleiv & Pinchas) come to her house and she saves their lives and in turn is eventually saved, becomes a Giyores, and ultimately marries Yehoshua. One wonders if it had not happened that the Meraglim came to the house of Rachav what would have happened to this woman. It may be that it is the same idea. The Ribbono Shel Olam sent the Meraglim to the house of Rachav. Rachav had within her the seeds of becoming a great person. She lived however, in a city ofTumah. By these Meraglim coming and the sense of Kedusha, it gave her the opportunity to make that last step and to become the great woman that she became.
The question of the week is: This brings us to the beginning of the Parsha with the Malachim first coming to Avraham and being guests. We seem to have something of a contradiction between two Rashis. Both Rashis are known but the fact that they are contradictory seem to be ignored. In 18:8 (וַיִּקַּח חֶמְאָה וְחָלָב, וּבֶן-הַבָּקָר אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וַיִּתֵּן, לִפְנֵיהֶם; וְהוּא-עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ, וַיֹּאכֵלוּ). Avraham took butter, milk, and the meat that he had prepared and Rashi says what about the bread? (ויקח חמאה וגו’: ולחם לא הביא לפי שפירסה שרה נדה, שחזר לה אורח כנשים אותו היום, ונטמאת העיסה). Rashi explains there was no bread served at the meal because the bread became Tamei and for whatever reason Avraham didn’t want to serve these guests bread that was Tamei. Ok, no bread at the meal. The very next Posuk 18:9 (וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו, אַיֵּה שָׂרָה אִשְׁתֶּךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה בָאֹהֶל). The Malachim ask for Sarah. Why are they asking for Sarah? Rashi brings a couple of Peshatim and one is the following (אמר רבי יוסי בר חנינא כדי לשגר לה כוס של ברכה). They said where is Sarah because we want to give her to drink from the Kos Shel Beracha that was used for Bentching. Doesn’t that contradict the previous Rashi because in the previous Rashi it says there was no bread. If there is no bread there is no Birchas Hamazon and if there is no Birchas Hamazon there is no Kos Shel Beracha. Im Kain Tzorech Iyun Gadol.
Someone suggested that they didn’t have the fresh bread that Sarah baked but they had other bread. But that is not accurate. Because the Diyuk of Rashi in Posuk 8 is from (וַיִּקַּח חֶמְאָה וְחָלָב, וּבֶן-הַבָּקָר), by the fact that the Posuk says what he served and it doesn’t mention the bread. Therefore, we can use a good Teretz for this Kasha.
The second question of the week is: In 19:19 (הִנֵּה-נָא מָצָא עַבְדְּךָ חֵן, בְּעֵינֶיךָ, וַתַּגְדֵּל חַסְדְּךָ אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי, לְהַחֲיוֹת אֶת-נַפְשִׁי; וְאָנֹכִי, לֹא אוּכַל לְהִמָּלֵט הָהָרָה–פֶּן-תִּדְבָּקַנִי הָרָעָה, וָמַתִּי) we find as the destruction of Sedom is taking place that Lot ran away and he is not sure where to go. So Rashi tells us that he made a calculation and a decision where to go based on the following Cheshbon. (פן תדבקני הרעה: כשהייתי אצל אנשי סדום היה הקב”ה רואה מעשי ומעשי בני העיר, והייתי נראה צדיק וכדאי להנצל, וכשאבא אצל צדיק אני כרשע. וכן אמרה הצרפית לאליהו (מ”א יז יח) כי באת אלי להזכיר את עוני, עד שלא באת אצלי היה הקב”ה רואה מעשי ומעשי עמי ואני צדקת ביניהם, ומשבאת אצלי לפי מעשיך אני רשעה:). He says that when I lived in Sedom I lived among people where I was the righteous person because they were evil, and therefore, I was worthy of being saved. If I would go and live with a Tzaddik then I will look like a Rasha and then I am not worthy of being saved. Therefore, I do not want to live with a Tzaddik. This is a calculation worthy ofLot because we know a person should rather be a (Zanav L’Ari then a Rosh L’shualim) tail to a lion than a not a head on a fox. It is better to tag along with Tzaddikim then be the head of inferior people. So it seems that Rashi is telling usLot’s reasoning and telling us that it is wrong.
But look at Rashi. After Rashi brings this reasoning ofLothe adds (. וכן אמרה הצרפית לאליהו (מ”א יז יח) כי באת אלי להזכיר את עוני). The same thing happens in the end of Malachaim I when the Isha of Tzarfas tells Eliyahu that when you come compared to you I am a Rasha and I am punished. She was a righteous woman and Rashi seems to be saying that this calculation ofLotis somehow correct. Could such a thing be? Tzorech Iyun Gadol.