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Rabbi Elimelech Biderman - Torah Wellsprings - Lech Lecha

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 39) gives the following mashal: "A traveler saw a mansion on fire. He said, 'Could it be that this home doesn’t have an owner?' The owner peeked out at him and said, 'I am the owner of this home.' So too, Avraham said, 'Could it be that the world doesn’t have a leader?' Hakadosh Baruch Hu peeked out to him and said, 'I am the leader of the world. Many commentaries on this Midrash explain that Avraham looked at our wondrous, magnificent world, and recognized the Creator through it. But then he saw the wicked who destroy the world (their sins destroyed the world in the generation of the flood and haflagah, and so on). Avraham didn’t understand why Hashem wasn't taking care of the world. The Midrash compares this to a traveler who sees a house on fire and exclaims, "This house surely has an owner; why isn't he putting out the fire?" The owner of the house peeked at him and said, "I am the owner of the house." Similarly, Avraham didn’t understand why Hashem was allowing the wicked to destroy the world. Hashem revealed himself to Avraham and said, "I am the owner of the world. Everything is under control." Nevertheless, a question remains —in the mashal and also in the nimshal — why doesn’t the owner put out the fire? The answer is, the owner of the house is essentially saying, "The house didn't go on fire by itself. I lit the fire. Everything that's happening is from me, and for a good purpose." Likewise, Hashem told Avraham that everything 2 Torah Wellsprings Torah Wellsprings Wellsprings - Lech Lecha that's happening is part of a masterplan and is for the good. The Midrash states, "The owner of the house peeked at him." Peeked, is an unusual expression. It seems that the Midrash should have stated, "the owner of the house looked at him." What is implied by peeked? To answer this question, we bring the verse (Shir HaShirim 2:9), "Looking through the windows, peeking through the cracks…" What is the difference between "looking through windows" and "peeking through cracks"? Each has a quality and a weakness. When one looks through a window he sees everything that's in front of the window, but because he sees so many things, he isn't focused on anything in particular. When one peeks through the cracks he sees less, but he can fully focus on whatever he sees. We want Hashem to "peek" at us, and see us with intense focus, so we will receive a greater dose of hashgachah pratis. In the Midrash, Avraham merited this special hashgachah after he saw the house/world burning. This suggests that when one is going through hard times, Hashem's hashgachah is on him in a more intense way.

This can be compared to when a child is chas veshalom ill and hospitalized. Although the parents love all their children equally, and they don’t have favorites, now their love and attention are focused on the child who needs their help most. When we go through hard times Hashem's eye are focused towards us, watching and guiding us with extra love and care, because we need extra care.

This can be compared to when a child is, G-d forbid, ill and hospitalized. Although the parents love all their children equally, and they don’t have favorites, now their love and attention are focused on the child who needs their help most. When we go through hard times Hashem's eye are focused towards us, watching and guiding us with extra love and care, because we need extra care. If the hospitalized child will plead to his parents to be with him, the parents will be even more devoted to that child. When going through difficulties, and you turn to Hashem, Hashem will watch you with immense hashgachah pratis.

Already as a five-year-old child, the Baal Shem of Michelstadt zt’l, was known as a wunderkind because of his quick and ingenious mind. The count of Michelstadt heard about the child's wisdom, and wanted to see with his own two eyes whether the rumors about the child were true. He summoned the child to his castle on a set date and time. The count told his family and staff that they shouldn’t be around when the child comes. The castle had many rooms, and there wouldn’t be anyone to ask directions. He wanted to see whether the child would find him. That was how the count planned to test the young child protégée. When the day arrived, the count looked out of his window and watched the child coming into the courtyard. It didn’t take long at all, and the child was knocking at his door. “Good day, honorable count.” The count was astounded. “How did you know I was here?” “Before entering, I took a few moments to look at the castle from the outside. I saw that the curtains of all the rooms were open, to let in the sunlight. Only one room had the curtains drawn. I understood that you were there, and that you were watching me from behind the curtains.” Years later, the Baal Shem Tov of Michelstadt zt’l repeated this story, and explained that whenever one is going through hard times and he feels that the curtains of heaven are drawn, that's a sign that Hashem is right there, peeking out at you from behind the curtains, watching you from concealment. In fact, those are the times when Hashem's hashgachah over you is even more pronounced.

Just as dawn comes after the night, hardships are often followed with salvation and goodness. As the Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah 2:5) states, "The darkness is the origin of the light that will be coming. Chazal explain, 'Had I not fallen, I wouldn’t have gotten up. Had I not sat in darkness, it wouldn’t have become light for me.'"

Yehudah worked for a well-known tzedakah organization that helps disadvantaged families in Beis Shemesh. Once, at one of their meetings, the director of the organization insulted and humiliated Yehudah, in front of the entire staff. When the meeting sojourned, the staff decided to have a picnic lunch in a nearby forest as they were all shaken up by the harsh, insulting words they heard at the meeting Upon getting out of their car in the forest, they heard a pitiful cry. A cat had climbed up high on a tree and was afraid to climb down. Yehudah heard that cats can jump down from heights and they don't get hurt, so he threw a stone at the cat. The cat chose to jump down rather than to be hit by the stone, and that's how the cat was saved. Yehudah said, "This reminds us that when stones are thrown at us, it's often a good thing." He was referring to himself. His humiliation may just be the darkness that precedes the light that would follow. Soon after, Yehudah was fired from his job and he became a real estate agent. He was successful in that venue, and became wealthy. Yehudah is now from the wealthiest people in Bet Shemesh. The humiliation he endured (and being fired) was the darkness before the dawn, the suffering before the great kindness that came to him.

When Avraham came to Eretz Canaan it became dark for him, since there was a famine in the land. People teased him, "Why did Hashem tell you to come here if there's a famine?" Avraham and Sarah went to Mitzrayim to wait out the hunger, and they became very wealthy over there. As it states (13:2), "Avram was very wealthy, with cattle, silver, and gold." The wealth is an example of the goodness that sprouted from the darkness.

There are different opinions as to how old Avraham was when he first recognized Hashem. The Rambam (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 1:2) writes, "Avraham was forty years old when he recognized the Creator…" The Raavad writes, "There is a Midrash that says he was three years old." Another Midrash states that Avraham recognized Hashem at the age of forty-eight. The Sar Shalom of Belz zt'l said that this latter opinion needs clarification. The opinion that Avraham recognized Hashem when he was three years old is understood: when Avraham was at the age of minimum comprehension, he already recognized Hashem. Also the Rambam's opinion, that he was forty years old, is comprehensible, because at forty, one attains understanding and perception. But what’s the significance of recognizing Hashem at age forty-eight? (And we can't say it was just by chance, since we know that nothing ever happens by chance. Certainly not when we’re discussing the avos, and the fundamental issue of when Avraham attained emunah.) The Sar Shalom explained that Avraham being forty-eight years old corresponds to the year the infamous Tower of Bavel was built to fight with Hashem. The spirit of the generation was heresy and rebellion against Hashem. The rule is: when one acquires emunah at a time when it’s very difficult to do so, the emunah becomes very deep and sincere. Since Avraham attained emunah when many people were leaning towards heterodoxy, he attained a very deep and sincere level of emunah.

Tzaddikim foresaw that before Moshiach comes it will be extremely difficult to believe in Hashem. Rebbe Yisrael of Ruzhin zt'l described believing in Hashem in that era to be similar to climbing up a straight wall.

Tana d'Bei Eliyahu (22:2) states, "Everyone must say, 'When will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers?'" Everyone must strive to emulate the ways of the holy avos. Therefore, we should also think, "What can I do, to ease the plight of my fellow man?"

The Torah begins with the letter ב which is gematriya two, and it doesn’t begin with the letter א, which is gematriya one. This implies that the basis of the Torah is ב, two, to think about what you can to do for others. One shouldn’t be א, one, self-centered, only thinking about himself.

The Chofetz Chaim zt'l told the following story: The Dubno Magid zt'l once met a blind widower walking with his son in the streets of Vilna. Most people didn’t pay much attention to them, but the Dubno Magid greeted them, and spoke with them. They told him about their great poverty, how their home wasn't heated, and that they didn’t have food. The Dubno Magid took them into his home so they could warm up, and to eat dinner. The Dubno Magid noticed that the son was very wise, so he hired a melamed to teach him Torah. From that day on they became part of the Dubno Magid's household. Even after the blind father was niftar, the Dubno Magid continued paying for the child's tutor. This child became Reb Shlomo Kluger zt'l, one of the gedolei hador, whose Torah illuminates the world until today. The Chofetz Chaim would say: Many people saw the blind pauper with his son walking around the streets of Vilna. They shook their heads, said 'nebach! What a rachmanus!' and that's about all. But the Dubno Magid took action. He showed concern, fed them, and paid for a tutor for the child. If the Dubno Magid hadn't helped them out, the Jewish nation would have lost a gadol b'Yisrael. Let's learn from this to grasp opportunities to do chesed, because you can never know what you will accomplish…

It states in this week’s parashah, “There was an argument between Avram’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds… and Avram said to Lot, ‘Let there not be a dispute between us…'” (13:7-8). The Shlah HaKadosh notes that the verse begins with the word ריב and ends with מריבה. Both words mean dispute. The difference between the two words is that מריבה is in feminine, implying that the dispute can chalilah bear fruit and increase in intensity, while ריב is masculine, which implies it will not grow out of proportion. There was a ריב between the shepherds, and Avram requested, let‘s be careful that this dispute not turn into something greater. Let’s stop this dispute soon so that it doesn’t bear fruit, and create a rift between us. The Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, vain, baseless hatred. What is baseless hatred? Isn't there always a reason for a dispute? The answer is, all disputes should dissipate and disappear after a few moments, or at the most, after a few days. Hanging on to an argument is sinas chinam. Sometimes, because of a single dispute, people can become distant from each other for years. That is sinas chinam, as there is no logical explanation for that. It is hatred for no reason at all. It can be compared to a match that goes out after a few seconds. But if you put papers, wood, and other combustibles near the match, the fire will burn for longer. If you continue stoking the fire, the fire can burn for a very long time. That is the essence of sinas chinam. The fight would have been long forgotten, but people continue adding more fuel to the fire, and then it gets out of hand. This is sinas chinam, which destroyed the Beis HaMikdash. This is a ריב that became a מריבה, as it grew out of proportion.

Angels came to Hagar, and they told her that she would have Yishmael. They met her, "At the spring on the road to Shor" (16:7). How did Hagar merit seeing angels? And how did she merit marrying Avraham? She was from Egypt, the lowliest country? The Divrei Shmuel answers that she merited all of this because she was cautious with her eyes. She was cautious with her eyes and with what she saw, and therefore she merited marrying Avraham, and seeing angels.

Chazal say "From the time the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed until today, Hakadosh Baruch Hu's only place in this world is within the four amos of halachah" (Brachos 8). This means Hashem's presence is where halachah is studied. The Sifsei Tzaddik gives another explanation. He writes, "I received from my holy teachers that this Gemara is referring to someone who guards his eyes when he is outdoors [and he doesn’t look out of his four cubits]." They are the "four cubits of halachah" where Hashem resides. The Lubavitcher Rebbes zt'l taught, "No nivdal (angel) and no soul in Gan Eden can reach the holiness of a Jew who guards his eyes when he walks outdoors."

Chazal say, "one sin leads to the next." Reb Gad'l Eizner zt'l would say, "I'm not afraid of a sin. I'm afraid of the sins that will result from that sin."

When Kayin's korban wasn't accepted, Hashem asked him, "Why has your face fallen? Why do you look so sad?" Hashem was telling him that if he feels broken and like a failure, it could lead to worse sins. Indeed, it resulted with Kayin killing Hevel. This is what can happen, when one feels down and loses hope because of his failures in avodas Hashem.

It states in halachah that the husband should prepare the Shabbos candles. He should light them and immediately blow them out, to prepare the wicks for his wife to light. We can explain that the wife lighting the candles that were extinguished implies that even when the fire goes out one should ignite it again. The fact that one failed earlier shouldn’t prevent him from trying again.

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