“But What Will the
Rabbi Chaim Ehrman
Our sages tell us that
when Hashem appeared to Avrohom, it was at “Eylonai Mamreh,” the
Plains of Mamreh (the Midrash translates this as the palace of
Mamreh). This was a reward to Mamreh because he encouraged Avrohom
to perform the mitzvah of Bris Milah.
The Midrash explains
that Avrohom consulted with his three friends whether he should
perform the Milah, or circumcision. Anair said, “Avrohom, you
are 99 years old. It’s a very painful procedure for young infants,
certainly for someone in your age bracket. Let others do the Milah.”
Eshkol said, “Avrohom, you have no children from Sarah. Hashem
promised you children from Sarah. You may make a slight error
when performing the Milah and it will be impossible for you to
have a child.” Mamreh said, “Avrohom, Hashem has performed miracles
for you. He saved you from a fiery furnace into which Nimrod threw
you, He saved you in a war against four mighty kings who conquered
the civilized world, and He will save you from the perils and
dangers of performing the Bris Milah.” Avrohom followed the advice
of Mamreh and performed the Bris Milah.
The obvious question
asked is, how could Avrohom waver in the fulfillment of the mitzvah
of Bris Milah?
Hashem had commanded
Avrohom to leave his family, his birthplace and his home to go
“to a land that I will show you,” and Avrohom went, with no questioning!
Our sages tell us that Avrohom Aveinu kept the entire Torah, all
613 mitzvos and all mitzvos of the Rabanan, including Eruv Tavshilin.
What was the reason Avrohom Avinu asked his friends whether he
should perform the mitzvah of Milah?
The Shaarei Aharon
provides unique insight into how to understand this problem. There
certainly was never any doubt on the part of Avrohom Avinu as
to whether he should go and fulfill the mitzvah of Milah. Since
Hashem commanded him to fulfill the mitzvah, it was a “given”
that it would be performed.
Avrohom Avinu had a
different problem. His concern was how to go about performing
the mitzvah. Should it be in a hidden place, where no one would
know about it, or should it be performed “Befarhesya,” in public,
to let the world know about the mitzvah that he was doing? He
could even make a seuda, a party, in honor of fulfilling Hashem’s
Anair and Eshkol advised Avrohom that he should
do the mitzvah quietly, between himself and Hashem. If neighbors
and friends would hear about the mitzvah of Mila that Avrohom
was performing, they would know that he was in great pain. (There
was no anesthesia in those days, and the Izmal, or Milah knife,
was not sterilized, which led to a risk of infection.) Keeping
this fact in mind, the thought process of Anair and Eshkol was
as follows: There was a war waged against the four mighty kings
in which Avrohom Aveinu emerged victorious. When word would get
out that Avrohom performed the circumcision on himself, everyone
would know that he was extremely weak, and the relatives of the
victims of the war would join forces and attack Avrohom to avenge
the wartime deaths of their families. Mamreh said that although
there was a danger of repercussions from publicizing performance
of the Milah, the Mitzvah of Milah is so great that Hashem would
protect Avrohom from any potential fallout from fulfilling the
mitzvah. Hashem performed miracles for Avrohom in the past, he
said, and He would do so in the future. Avrohom followed Mamreh’s
approach and made public the mitzvah that he did. He made a feast
and invited everyone to attend to participate in the Seudas Mitzvah
of performing the Bris Milah.
This Midrash gives
us insight in terms of our assessment of fulfilling the mitzvos
of Hashem. A common feeling in response to the need to perform
a mitzvah that is not “politically correct” is, “What will our
neighbors say???” When Jewish immigrants came to this country
from Eastern Europe, they wanted to be “Americanized.” The first
thing that came off was the beard and payos for men and shaitels
for women. The yarmulka and “tzitzis outside” were also dropped.
The way Avrohom Avinu
performed the Bris Milah should teach us that we should be proud
fulfilling the Mitvos of Hashem. There is no need to be “closet
Yiddin.” When the Satmar Rebbe came to Williamsburg, he wore
his chassidic mode of dress. When Friday afternoon approached,
people told the Rebbe, “You cannot wear a shtreimel in the street.
In America, no one wears a shtreimel in a public place.” The
Rebbe looked at his Gabbai, Rav Ashkenazi, put on his shtreimel,
and said, “Come, let’s go to Daven.” Today, it is not uncommon
to wear a shtreimel in the street, especially in Boro Park or
Williamsburg. May we learn to emulate the ways of Avrohom Avinu,
just as the Satmar Rebbe showed us.
Rabbi Ehrman is the
Rav of Congregation Bais Yitzchok and learns second seder daily
with the kollel.
Hachnosas Orchim -
Having Guests According
to the Halacha
Rabbi Avi Weinrib
In this week’s Torah
portion we are told of the extraordinary hospitality or our patriarch,
Avraham. Despite being in great pain following his circumcision,
Avraham nevertheless actually goes out searching for guests and
then, upon finding them, serves them himself. The Chofetz Chaim
[Ahavas Chesed 3:2] points out that the reason the Torah uncharacteristically
elaborates on this event is to teach us the great importance of
the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim [inviting in guests].
The Meiri [Shabbos 127a] actually writes that this mitzvah
is the greatest of all the mitzvos. The Talmud [Chagigah 27a]
tells us that when the Temple stood, the alter [through sacrifices]
would atone for one’s sins, but now – in the tragic absence of
the Beis Hamikdash - one’s table has this ability. Rashi
explained that “one’s table” is referring to the guests one serves.
In this week’s Halacha Encounters we will discuss some
of the details of this great mitzvah.
Who is Considered
The Rema [O.H.333]
defines a guest as one who is either sleeping over in the host’s
home or sleeping at a friend’s house but eating at the host’s
home. A friend who is invited over for social reasons does not
have the halachic status of a guest. Rav Yosef Lerner shlita
in Sefer Habayis [Chapter 33 note 11] adds that if one invites
over a friend whose spouse is out of town, or invites a family
whose home is under construction, these people would also be considered
“guests.” HaRav Dovid Zucker shlita added that if one
would invite over a newcomer to town in order to welcome him,
he too would be included in the halachic category of “guest.”
Torah or Prayer
If one is on the way
out to learn Torah and a guest arrives, should he take care of
the guest’s needs and miss his own study session? The answer to
this question would also apply to a person on the way to pray
with a minyan [quorum]. The Chofetz Chaim [Ahavas Chesed 3:1]
writes that one should rather take care of his guest unless there
is someone else who can also take care of him properly. If the
guest is an important person, in all cases one should tend to
him personally. HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l
[Halichos Shlomo Chapter 5 Footnote 25] writes similarly regarding
prayer, that if the guest is not in a rush and will not feel bad
if the host leaves, then the host should rather go pray. But if
the guest would feel slighted, the host should rather tend to
the needs of his guest. Rav Shlomo Zalman points out that this
is all assuming that the person fits into the halachic guidelines
of a guest as explained above. He also adds that the mitzvah of
Hachnosas Orchim would not override any law in Shulchan
Aruch. For example, one who has already said Baruch She’amar
in Shacharis is not allowed to interrupt his tefillos.
This would apply even if he wanted to greet a guest at that point
in the tefillah.
Payment for Guests
Does a person fulfill
the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim if he is being paid for
it? There is a discussion in the Poskim regarding paying or accepting
pay for a hotel stay on Shabbos. The issue surrounds the halacha
that one is not allowed to pay for or accept payment for work
or services done on Shabbos. The Maharsham writes [O.H. 306-4]
that perhaps since Hachnosas Orchim is a mitzvah, it would
be permitted to pay or accept payment, as found in similar cases
of other mitzvos. The poskim infer from here that the Maharsham
would hold that even if one accepts payment, he would still fulfill
this mitzvah. HaGaon Rav Moshe Shternbuch shlita [Teshuvos
V’Hanhagos Volume 2:197] strongly disagrees and is of the opinion
that if one accepts money, he would not fulfill the mitzvah of
Hachnosas Orchim. The Magen Avrohom [O.H. 38:8] rules that
if one’s main intent was to fulfill the mitzvah, and the payment
was secondary, then he would have fulfilled the mitzvah. The Biur
Halachah extends this even further, saying that even if a person’s
intentions were equally weighted, that would be sufficient to
fulfill the mitzvah.
a loss or any damage will result from hosting a particular guest
one would not be obligated to host him [Orech Maisharim 17-2].
though Hachnosas Orchim applies as equally to one who is wealthy
as to one who is not, when inviting a destitute person one additionally
fulfills the mitzvah of Tzedakah [charity]. The Chofetz Chaim
writes that this is contrary to the way many approach this mitzvah.
He says that people look forward to, and are happy hosting guest
who are financially well off, but shy away from guests who are
if one has household help he should tend to the guest himself.
Sefer Chasidim [Siman 312] writes that one should not ask his
guest for a D’var Torah [Torah thought] unless the host is sure
his guest would have something to say, in order not to embarrass
him. The Chesed L'Avrohom [Siman 8-15] adds that if one’s guest
is sharing a Torah thought, one should not argue or prove him
wrong since this would cause the guest great pain.
Taking Leave of One’s
one’s guest leaves, the host should prepare him food for the way
[Shelah, Pesachim, Ner Mitzvah O.H. Gemilus].
is required to accompany his guest when he departs. The custom
is to accompany him 4 amos [approx. 6-8 feet]. There is a dispute
in the Poskim as to whether this applies only when the guest is
leaving alone, or even when he is leaving together with others
[see Aruch Hashulchan C.M. 426-2 Teshuvos Betzail Chochma Volume