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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.

 

 

Monday, 3 Cheshvan 5775 – October 27, 2014             

              

            We read in Parashat Lekh-Lekha of the military campaign launched by Avraham against the four kingdoms that captured Sedom and its neighboring cities, in an effort to rescue his nephew, Lot, who had been residing in Sedom.  After Avraham’s triumph, the king of Sedom offered Avraham all the spoils of war in exchange for handing over rights to all the people whom he had rescued.  In response, Avraham declared that he would not take any of the property (14:23). 

            Several different explanations have been given for why Avraham refused to accept the property which he rightfully deserved, having rescued it from the hands of the four kings.  One source, the Midrash Aggadah (cited in Torah Sheleima), explains that Avraham acted for the sake of kiddush Hashem – bringing glory to the Almighty:  

Avraham Avinu glorified the Almighty’s Name at that moment – [he refused to take the property] so that the king of Sedom would not think that Avraham waged war against the four kings for the money, as [in truth] he waged war solely to rescue Lot – who was his nephew – and his property. 

The Midrash’s comments bring to mind a famous passage in the Rambam’s Hilkhot Yesodei Ha-Torah (5:11) describing one aspect of the prohibition of chilul Hashem: 

There are also other things included under chilul Hashem, and that is when a person who is accomplished in Torah and renowned for piety commits acts on account of which people spread rumors about him.  Even though they are not transgressions, he has defamed the Name – such as if he made a purchase and did not immediately pay…or he indulges in laughter or eating and drinking with or among ignoramuses, or if his speech with people is discourteous and he does not greet people pleasantly, and is instead a person of strife and anger. 

Even an inherently innocent, permissible act such as buying on credit can constitute an act of chilul Hashem.  The obligation to glorify God’s Name requires us to occasionally forego on what is rightfully ours in order to avoid suspicion or a wrong impression.  Avraham was well within his right to significantly increase his fortunes by keeping the rescued property of Sedom for himself.  But he perceptively foresaw the kinds of rumors that would spread if he did, and so he declined.  

            We, Avraham’s descendants, who are privileged to bear his legacy and continue his work of representing God to the world, must follow this example and always be mindful of how even inherently justifiable conduct can be misinterpreted.  If we constantly fight for what we deserve, if we routinely “run a hard bargain” and refuse to show flexibility and compromise, we betray our treasured legacy and create a chilul Hashem.  Even actions which, from a technical legal perspective, are acceptable, become totally unacceptable if they tarnish our reputation and create or confirm suspicions and negative stereotypes about the nation of Avraham.

 

Rav David Silverberg     

 

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(c) 2014 Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash, Yeshivat Har Etzion.

 

 

 

 


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