Keeping the Peace is even Greater than the Seal of Truth – Vayeira 5778
Mazel Tov to Catriel and Chani Vogel and Yaakov and Sari Vogel on the birth of baby girls! May they merit to raise them to a life of Torah, chupa and good deeds!
Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Keeping the Peace is even Greater than the Seal of Truth
“והוא עומד עליהם תחת העץ ויאכלו” (בראשית יח:ח)
“And he (Avraham) stood upon them under the tree and they ate” (Bereishis 18:8)
Did Avraham’s guests actually eat the food that he served them!? Did we not learn that they were angels sent from Hakadosh Baruch Hu to Avraham; each angel with its own mission!? Therefore, how is it possible that they consumed the food of man on earth!?
The sages explained (Baba Matzia 86b) as follows: Rebbi Tanchum the son of Chanilai said a person should always act according to the custom of the place he finds himself in just as Moshe went up to the Heavens and refrained from eating bread and the ministering angels came down to earth and ate bread. Did they actually eat bread!? No, rather they pretended that they ate bread!
We can derive an additional lesson from our posuk, and that is, it is permissible for a person to alter the truth of his words if it will please another, for although the angels did not eat, the Torah clearly states that they ate, and this in order to please their host. In this manner Rebeinu Yona explains the posuk in Mishlei (10:32) “שפתי צדיק ידעון רצון” / “The lips of a righteous person know will” as follows: Since the posuk above stated “כי פי צדיק ינוב חכמה” / “For the mouth of a righteous person will produce wisdom” and cursed is a person who alters his words as it concludes“ולשון תהפכות תכרת” / “the tongue of those who reverse their words shall be cut off”, the posuk here comes to tell us that even though a righteous person speaks only the truth, he will alter his words in order to secure peace between people as his lips have become accustomed and expert to please others, as it states “מענה רך ישיב חמה” / “A soft response will recall anger” (Mishlei 15:1).
Additional sources for the permission granted to a righteous person to alter his words are brought in Mesechta Yavamos (65b). Rebbi Ila’a said in the name of Rebbi Eleazar the son of Rebbi Shimon, it is permissible for a person to alter his words in order to bring peace, and he brings three different sources to back his statement: (1) as it is stated“ויצוו אל יוסף לאמר אביך צוה לפני מותו לאמר. כה תאמרו ליוסף אנא שא נא פשע אחיך וחטאתם” / “They (Yosef’s brothers) said to Yosef saying that your father commanded before his death saying. So you (the brothers) shall say to Yosef, please hold, please, the intentional sin of your brothers and their unintentional sin” (Bereishis 50:16-17). [Rashi explains that Yaakov did not truly command them, rather they altered their words in order to bring peace between themselves and Yosef.] (2) Rebbi Nasan says it is not only permissible but it is also a mitzvah to alter one’s words for the sake of peace as it states ויאמר שמואל איך אלך ושמע… שאול והרגני” / “And Shmuel said (to Hashem) how can I go!? Shaul will hear (that I am coming) and he will kill me”! [Rashi explains it says there“ויאמר ה’ עגלת בקר תקח בידך ואמרת לזבוח לה’ באתי” / “And Hashem said a take a calf in your hand and you shall say in order to sacrifice to Hashem I have come”, and in this Hashem commands Shmuel to alter his words for in reality Hashem did not command him to offer a sacrifice. (3) The Beis Medrash of Rebbi Yishmael taught, great is the power of peace that even Hakadosh Baruch Hu altered the truth. At first it says“ותצחק שרה בקרבה לאמר אחרי בלתי היתה לי עדנה ואדני זקן“ / “And Sarah laughed saying after this long period and (now) I have become fruitful, (but) my husband is elderly“. Then the posuk states“ויאמר ה’ אל אברהם למה זה צחקה שרה לאמר האף אמנם אלד ואני זקנתי“ / “Hashem said to Avraham, why did Sarah laugh saying is it true that I will give birth and I am old” (Bereishis 18:12-13). Rashi explains that Sarah said “ואדוני זקן” which is derogatory language. But when Hashem revealed Sarah’s words to Avraham, He changed Sarah’s words as though she had said “ואני זקנתי” / “I became old” in order to make peace between them.
We find as well in Mesechta Baba Matzia (23b/24a) that for additional reasons as well it is permissible for a person to alter his words. The Gemora says, Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel, in the following three things the rabbis can alter their words: (1) Meseches (2) Intimacy (3) Hosting. Explains Rashi, (1) Meseches – If a person asks you if you are familiar with a certain Talmudic Mesechta, even if in fact you are familiar with it, it is permissible to answer him that you have not yet mastered that Mesechta, as this is done in humility, (2) Intimacy – If a person asks concerning issues of intimacy, you can refute his assumptions, for it is immodest to answer otherwise, and (3) Hosting – If someone asks you if the host you ate by is generous, it is permissible to say that he was not although in fact he was generous, so that unscrupulous people do not take advantage of him.
From all the above, we learn that preserving peace is of ultimate importance – so much so that in order to preserve peace one may alter his words and refrain from telling the truth! This is so even though the sages have taught us that the world was created with truth and that it is sustained by it, for in order for the foundational truth of the world to be realized it is necessary for mans’ matters to be conducted in a peaceful manner.
And we can learn this principle as well from the manner in which Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the world. The sages teach us that in order to prevent jealousy between the upper and lower worlds, Hakadosh Baruch Hu created man partly from the upper world and partly from the lower world; the soul from the upper world and the body from the lower world. Now, if Hakadosh Baruch Hu was careful to avoid jealousy among creations which do not possess intelligence and do not have feelings, certainly regarding mankind, who is imbued with intelligence, awareness and feelings, that one should be extremely careful not to cause jealousy among people. Rather, one should foster friendliness and togetherness between people!
Avraham Avinu’s Words to His Sons and Servants Dealt Mainly with the Study of Torah
“ויאמר אברהם אל נעריו שבו לכם פה עם החמור ואני והנער נלכה עד כה ונשתחוה ונשובה אליכם” (בראשית כב:ה)
“And Avraham said to the young men (accompanying him), sit for you here with the donkey, and I and the young man will go until here and prostate (before Hashem) and return to you” (Bereishis 22:5)
(1) Why is it necessary to mention the donkey? In addition, is it proper to instruct the young men to sit with the donkey while Avraham and Yitzchok go on to worship Hashem!?
(2) Why is it written “כה” without mentioning the exact location?
(3) What is the explanation of the phrase “ונשתחוה ונשובה אליכם”/ “and we will prostate (before Hashem) and return to you”?
We can answer the above questions with G-d’s help as follows (the following numbering is not according to the numbering of the above questions):
(1) Don’t read the word “פֹה” to mean here, rather read it as though it is written to read mouth – “פֶה“!
(2) In addition, don’t read the word “חמור” to mean donkey, rather as referring to that which the tribe of Yissachar was compared to a “חמור” / “donkey” as it says “יששכר חמור גרם רובץ בין המשפתים”/ “Yissachar is a hard-boned donkey who settles down between the boundaries” (Bereishis 49:14) and Rashi explains that Yissachar accepted upon themselves the heavy yoke of Torah, similar to that which a donkey holds on its back heavy loads of merchandise, until they eventually became the instructors of the whole of the Jewish people.
According to the above introduction, we can answer the above questions as follows: Avraham said to “נעריו” / “his young men” – referring to Yishmael his son, whom he had trained in the keeping the mitzvos of the Torah and to Eliezer his servant who was referred to as “דמשק אליעזר” for he would teach his master’s Torah to others – wait here in your place and level of Torah learning as I have taught you, which includes the Written Torah (hinted to in the word חמור”” which also means basic matter and this is the Written Torah which is the foundation of all the Law which extends from it), and the Oral Torah (which is hinted to in the word “פה“) and by Hashem’s command I and Yitzchok will ascend the mountain in order to reach a deeper, more spiritual understanding of the Torah as Dovid Hamelech wrote “לחזות בנועם ה’ ולבקר בהיכלו” / “to see the purity of Hashem and to enter His Sanctuary” (Tehillim 27:4). And that is the meaning of “עד כה“, meaning to a deep, undefinable level of awareness of the concealed Torah, as we find this expression used regarding the receiving of prophecy as it states “כה אמר ה'” / “so says Hashem (to the prophet) as in Yeshaya 43:1, Yirmiya 19:1 etc. Therefore, no identifiable location was mentioned!
Afterwards Avraham said to them, “we will return to you” and continue to learn with you the revealed Law.
From another angle we can suggest that the wording ונשתחוה ונשובה אליכם”” / “and we will prostate (before Hashem) and return to you” teaches us that upon becoming aware of the concealed Torah, Avraham and Yitzchok realized that they had a need to improve their fulfillment of the revealed Torah, for they now saw the obligations of the revealed Torah in an upgraded light!
(In this, we have discovered a reference to the fact that the act of the Akeida filled the world with a spirit of teshuva/repentance. This is in line with what the sages have taught us that the mitzvah of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah unleashes the power of the Akeida allowing Hakadosh Baruch Hu to move from His throne of Justice and to sit on His throne of Mercy and accept the repentance of the Jewish people and merit them with a healthy and successful new year!)
Have nice Shabbos!