Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vayera

The following is a brief summary of a vort said over by R' Frand on the parsha. I have attempted to reproduce the vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

After the story of the interaction of Avraham and the angels and their news of Sarah's impending pregnancy, the Torah offers a strange interaction where Hashem questions whether He should tell Avraham that He will be destroying Sodom. In Bereishis 18:17, the Torah states that Hashem said - shall I conceal from Avraham what I will do? The next pasuk then states "And Avraham will become a great and mighty nation and the nations of the world will bless him."

The entire sequence of events is difficult to understand. Why does Hashem ask whether He should tell Avraham about the destruction of Sodom? And what does the destruction of Sodom have to do with Avraham and the Jews becoming a great nation?

Rabbi Frand answered the first question by looking into why Hashem would want to hide it from Avraham in the first place. He explained that Hashem knew that Avraham would try to daven for Sodom to be saved, but Hashem also knew that the tefillos would not change the end result and that Sodom would be destroyed as it was bereft of tzadikkim. It was for this reason that Hashem debated not telling Avraham about Sodom before relenting and giving him the news. But why even give Avraham the opportunity to daven for Sodom in the first place?

Rabbi Frand answered by making reference to the ma'amar chazal - no tefillah goes unanswered. Even though Avraham was unable to save Sodom with his tefillah, his tefillos were banked and used in the future to save other cities.

Before getting into the "unanswered" topic, R' Frand digressed to quote R' Yonasan Aibschutz in the sefer Tiferes Yonasan for the principle that we learn from Avraham the concept of a tzaddik davening for a city to be saved. Rabbi Frand indicated that the concept itself can be found in the Neilah davening (although I could not locate it in Nusach Ashkenaz) where the statement from Bereishis 18:28 which begins "chalilah lecha" is replicated in the davening. Given that Avraham was unsuccessful in saving Sodom by davening in this manner, why do we put it in Neilah? R' Frand answered that Avraham's tefilos were answered by Hashem, but Sodom was not the city saved by those tefillos.

The above concept can also be seen from the sequence of the pesukim. Hashem asks whether He should tell Avraham and then follows with a statement that Avraham will be a great nation. Hashem is telling us, while Avraham's prayers will not save Sodom, they will be banked for the future and used to save his great nation.

The concept reminded me of a vort that R' Mansour said this summer in Parshas Vaeschanan in relation to why Hashem allowed Moshe to daven 515 prayers before being told that he should stop as Hashem would not allow him to enter Israel. R' Mansour explained that a person may pray from the heart and still not get the answer he is looking for at the time. This does not mean that the request won't be answered for a different person or at a different time. He analogized the situation to blood bank. A person will donate blood to the blood bank to be used in the future as needed. If that person needs blood, he may receive it back from the blood bank. However, if another person needs blood, the "banked" blood will be available to that other person to address his medical needs.

So too with the prayers that are made. Hashem may not give the person what he is asking for when he prays. But the prayer will be answered down the road and Hashem will assist him or perhaps his children or grandchildren.

R' Frand closed the vort by repeating one of my favorite stories that he told a number of years ago. He told the story of a man who was walking on the street in Tel Aviv and was asked to join a minyan. The man protested multiple times, stating that he was not religious and had never been in a synagogue. Eventually, the man agreed and joined the short prayer service. The man later became Orthodox as a result of the experience.

Meanwhile, the gentleman's father became the butt of jokes on his Kibbutz. How could his son become Orthodox when his father had raised him to despise religion. The answer was that it must have been the prayers of the grandfather for his son. While the grandfather was unsuccessful in convincing his son to become frum, his prayers did not go unanswered. Instead, the grandson became the beneficiary of his grandfather's prayers and tears. It should be no great surprise that the synagogue where the man's journey to religion began was the same shul that his grandfather himself had prayed in.

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