שביבי אש
לסדר וירא

וַיֹּאמֶר מַהֲרִי שְׁלֹשׁ סְאִים קֶמַח סֹלֶת לוּשִׁי וַעֲשִׂי עֻגוֹת

Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes (Genesis 18:6)

Our Sages deduced in the Talmud that when Avraham told Sarah to make cakes he instructed her to use "meal" (קֶמַח), and it was Sarah who said "fine flour" (סֹלֶת). From this textual deduction the Sages infer that women are disposed to be stingy with guests. But the obvious question is that if it was Sarah who, having been instructed by Avraham to use meal, took fine flour instead, then it was she who was the generous one.

In the Talmud the text is reversed to read that it was Avraham who said "fine flour" (סֹלֶת) and Sarah who said "meal" (קֶמַח). But our master says that the text in the Talmud reflects a mistaken correction by some student who wished to avoid the difficulty in attributing stinginess to Sarah if it was she who said "fine flour." This correction, however, only makes matters worse, because the Scripture itself writes: "and he said: 'Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal'" (וַיֹּאמֶר מַהֲרִי שְׁלֹשׁ סְאִים קֶמַח סֹלֶת). If we distinguish, in accordance with the derivation of our Sages, between the two words "qemah" and "solet," attributing one to Avraham and the other to Sarah, we are compelled to attribute the first, "קֶמַח," to Avraham and the second, "סֹלֶת", to Sarah. For how could one say that of the two words "קֶמַח" and "סֹלֶת" attributed by the Scripture to Avraham that the first was said by Sarah and only the second by Avraham?

But our master resolved the difficulty by explaining that it would be incredible if someone as generous as Avraham, having slaughtered three bulls so that he could serve his three guests three tongues with mustard, would not have been willing to offer a little bit of fine flour and ordered that meal be kneaded instead? Moreover, why, in particular, did he say "make cakes" (עֲשִׂי עֻגוֹת)? Why serve cakes, instead of bread, with meat, butter, and milk, which are always and everywhere eaten with bread? But Avraham was moved by a different spirit, because he had just been informed by G-d that Sarah would bear him a son, Yitzhak, at the same time next year. (Genesis 17:22) He therefore feared that perhaps Sarah would immediately revert to her youthful state, resuming menstruation thereby rendering the dough ritually unclean, which, indeed, was just what happened. That is why Avraham commanded Sarah to take meal not fine flour. For according to the Talmud, fine flour cannot be made without being moistened, thereby becoming susceptible of ritual impurity. He further told her to make cakes, which would be moistened with fruit juice rather than water and, consequently, would not become susceptible of ritual impurity. He did all this so that there would be enough bread at the meal.

But Sarah ignored Avraham's instructions, and took fine flour. Why did she deviate from those instructions? If Avraham specified meal, how did she dare do differently? But having felt heaviness in her limbs, she knew that she would menstruate. So, understanding that by using fine flour for bread instead of meal for cakes, she would render the dough ritually unclean, she chose to use fine flour so that she could avoid giving the guests any bread. This is why the Talmud inferred that a woman is stingy with her guests.

בֶּן בָּקָר רַךְ וָטוֹב

A calf tender and good (Geneis 18:7)

Rashi explains that Avraham took three bulls in order to feed each guest tongue with mustard. And it appears to our master that the inference from the Scripture that Avraham served tongue is based on the Midrash Eikhah in which the knowledge of the children of Jerusalem is discussed. There was once someone who offered a perutah to one of the children to bring him the best available food. When the child brought tongue, he 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" (רַךְ וָטוֹב) to tell us that it was good because it was soft. It is only tongue that has this characteristic. And there is nothing in the world for which there is not a hint in the Torah.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו אַיֵּה שָׂרָה

And the said to him, Where is Sarah? (Genesis 18:9)

Rashi comments that there are dots over the letters "א", "י", and "ו" in the word "אֵלָיו" to inform us that the angels had asked Sarah where is Avraham. And our master infers that they asked Sarah this question from the fact that by taking the letter "ל" which has no dot over it from "אֵלָיו" and adding it to the word "אַיֵּה," we get the word "אֵלֶיהָ" The verse can thus be read as "וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלֶיהָ אַוֹי" (and they asked her where is he).

וַיֹּאמֶר אַל תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֶל הַנַּעַר וְאַל תַּעַשׂ לוֹ מְאוּמָה כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה וְלֹא חָשַׂכְתָּ אֶת בִּנְךָ אֶת יְחִידְךָ מִמֶּנִּי

And he said, "Lay not your hand upon the lad, nor do anything to him; for now I know that you fear G-d, seeing that you did not withhold your son, your only son from me." (Genesis 22:12)

In the test of the aqeidah Avraham our father 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, Avraham showed the intensity of his love for G-d, so that he rejoiced in G-d'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," Avraham's response was amazing. He was then longing to sacrifice his son, and his love for the Almighty was burning inside him like a flame. Yet he withheld his hand from doing any harm to Yitzhak. This shows how great was Avraham's fear of G-d. It was mighty, because he stayed his hand from slaughtering Yitzhak, even though he had a great desire to sacrifice Yitzhak, for, as they say in the Talmud, Avraham asked if he could not at least inflict a wound upon Yitzhak, to effect at least a partial fulfilment of G-d's original commandment. Which is why the angel answered him "nor do anything to him" (אַל תַּעַשׂ לוֹ מְאוּמָה). For Avraham to have been able to rein in his desire to fulfill G-d's positive commandment at the moment of his greatest fervor showed an exalted fear of G-d that soared above even his love of G-d. And this is what was said: "For now I know that you fear G-d" (כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה). 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 G-d's greatness - there was nothing that could have prevented Avraham from performing the deed.