סדר וירא

ויאמר מהרי שלש סאים קמח סלת לושי ועשי עגות

Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes

Genesis 18:6

In the Talmud (Bava Metzia 87a) it is stated:

” כתיב קמח וכתיב סלת אמר רבי יצחק מכאן שהאשה צרה עיניה באורחים יותר מן האיש”

Because the Scripture writes both קמח and סלת, the R. Yitzhaq infers that there was a difference of opinion between Abraham and Sarah about whether to make the cakes from fine flour or from meal, concludes that their difference of opinion reflected a difference in their attitudes toward their guests that reflect the typical nature of men and women. But the obvious question that arises is that if it was Sarah who, having been told by Abraham to use meal, took fine flour instead, then it appears that Sarah was more generous than Abraham.

However in his Talmudic commentary on this passage, Rashi reverses the order of the text and says that it was Abraham who said סלת and Sarah who said קמח. But our master explains that the Talmudic text before us in which קמח precedes סלת must be correct, and that Rashi’s comment must reflect a mistaken correction by a scribe who tried to avoid the difficulty in attributing stinginess to Sarah if it was she who decided to use סלת in the cakes. But this correction only adds to the difficulty, because the Scripture itself writes: “And he said: ‘Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal'” (ויאמר מהרי שלֹשׁ סאים קמח סלת). So, in following the derivation of our Sages, if we distinguish between the two words קמח and סלת, attributing one to Abraham and the other to Sarah, we are compelled to attribute the first, “קמח,” to Abraham and the second, “סלת,” to Sarah. For how could one say that of the two words (“קמח” and “סלת”) attributed by the Scripture to Abraham and Sarah that the first of the two represents the choice made by Sarah while the second was the choice of Abraham when it was Abraham who initiated the interaction?

Our master, however, resolved the difficulty, explaining that it would be incredible if someone as generous as Abraham, having already slaughtered three bulls just so he could serve his three guests three tongues with mustard, would have been unwilling to offer his guests some bread made from fine flour, telling Sarah to make them cakes from meal instead. Moreover, why, in particular, did he say “make cakes” (עשי עגוֹת)? Why serve cakes rather than bread, with meat, butter, and milk which, always and everywhere, are eaten with bread? But Abraham had a different motivation, having just been informed by God that Sarah would bear him a son at the same time next year (Genesis 17:22) he feared that Sarah, reverting to her youthful state, would resume her menstrual cycle, thereby rendering the dough she kneaded ritually unclean, which, indeed, was just what happened as Rashi comments a few verses thereafter (Genesis 18:8).

That is why Abraham told Sarah to bake cakes with meal, not bread with fine flour, it being necessary to soak fine flour in water before it can be made into dough, thereby rendering the dough susceptible to ritual impurity. He also told her to make the cakes with meal, which is moistened with fruit juice not with water, and, consequently is not susceptible to ritual impurity. By asking Sarah to use meal in making cakes, Abraham wanted to ensure that there would be enough bread for the guests to eat with their dinner.

But Sarah ignored Abraham’s instructions, and took fine flour. If Abraham specified using meal, why did Sarah do otherwise? It must that Sarah was stingy toward her guests, for having felt heaviness in her limbs, she realized that she her menstrual cycle would resume imminently. Despite understanding that, by using fine flour to bake bread rather than meal to make cakes, she would likely render the dough ritually unclean, she nevertheless chose to use fine flour even if the guests would, as a result, have no bread for their meal. This is why the Talmud inferred from Sarah that a woman is stingy with her guests. (Shevivei Eish)

בן בקר רך וטוב

A calf tender and good

Genesis 18:7

Rashi explains that Aנraham took three bulls so that he could serve each guest tongue with mustard. But it appears that the inference from the Scripture that Abraham served tongue is based on the Midrash (Vayiqra Rabbah 33a) which mentions the knowledge of the children of Jerusalem, inasmuch as once someone offered a perutah to one of the children to bring him the best food available. When the child brought tongue, he then asked the child to bring the worst food. The child again brought tongue, explaining that if tongue is properly cooked and tender, there is nothing better than tongue, but if it is tough, there is nothing worse. And the Scripture writes here “tender and good” (רך וטוב) to tell us that it was good because it was soft; only tongue has this characteristic. And there is nothing in the world for which there is not a hint in the Torah. (Shevivei Eish)

ויאמרו אליו איה שרה

And the said to him, Where is Sarah?

Genesis 18:9

Rashi comments that there are dots over the letters “א”, “י”, and “ו” (איו) in the word “אליו” to inform us that the angels had asked Sarah where is Abraham. That this question was asked to Sarah may be inferred from the fact that by taking the letter “ל” which has no dot over it from “אליו” and adding it to the word “איה,” we get the word “אליה”. The verse can thus be read as “ויאמרו אליה אוי” (and they asked her where is he). (Shevivei Eish)



ומצות אפה ויאכלו

And he baked matzot and they ate.

Genesis 19:3


Our Sages inferred from this verse that it must have been Passover, but it does not seem that the inference is warranted, inasmuch as it might have been that Lot baked matzot because he did not want to delay the meal until the dough was leavened. However, the Sages must have held the opinion that even if bread is unleavened, unless it was baked for the express purpose of not being hametz, but only in order to be baked quickly, the bread would not be designated as matzah or matzot but only as lehem matzot or ugot matzot as is the case during the Exodus from Egypt where we find that the Scripture  (Genesis 12:39) refers to the bread that was baked before it could rise as ugot matzot (ויאפו את הבצק אשר הוציאו ממצרים עגת מצות כי לא חמץ). In that context matzot serves as an adjective modifying ugot. But because Scripture, in recounting the story of Lot, writes Lot baked matzot it is clear that Lot specifically intended not to make bread that would not become hametz, which is why the Scripture wrote matzot instead of ugot matzot. (kuntres Matzah Shemurah)

ויאמר אל תשלח ידך אל הנער ואל תעש לו מאומה כי עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלהִים אתה ולא חשכת את בנך את יחידך ממני

And he said, “Lay not your hand upon the lad, nor do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you did not withhold your son, your only son from me.”

Genesis 22:12

In the test of the aqeidah, Abraham demonstrated two characteristics. First, he took his one and only son — the beloved of his soul and the child of his delight — who was dearer to him than anything else, to be slaughtered, to shed his blood like water. In doing so, Abraham showed the intensity of his love for God, so that he rejoiced in God’s commandments even as one who finds a great treasure. Second, when the angel of G-d called to him: “Lay not your hand upon the lad,” Abraham’s response was amazing. He was then longing to sacrifice his son, and his love for the Almighty burned inside him like a flame. Yet he withheld his hand from doing any harm to Isaac. This shows how great was Abraham’s fear of God. It was mighty, because he stayed his hand from slaughtering Isaac, even though at that moment he had a great desire to sacrifice Isaac, for, as they say in the Talmud, Abraham asked if he could not at least inflict a wound upon Isaac, to effect at least a partial fulfilment of God’s original commandment. Which is why the angel answered him “nor do anything to him” (אל תעש לו מאומה). For Abraham to have been able to rein in his desire to fulfill God’s positive commandment at the moment of his greatest fervor showed an exalted fear of God that soared above even his love of God. And this is what was said: “For now I know that you fear God” (כי עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלהים אתה). For you have reached the loftiest level of fear inasmuch as you did not withhold your one and only son from Me. And except for Me — because of the fear of the glory of God’s greatness — there was nothing that could have prevented Abraham from performing the deed. (Shevivei Eish)

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