לסדר לך לך
לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ וכו'
Go for yourself from your country, from your kindred and from your father's house (Genesis 12:2)
The verse appears to be out of order, as it would seem more appropriate to have said "from your father's house, from your birthplace, and from your homeland." And it appears to our master that the order here was the basis for the Midrash Rabbah (39) which relates this verse to the verse in Psalms (45:11): "Listen, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget your own people and your father's house" (שִׁמְעִי בַת וּרְאִי וְהַטִּי אָזְנֵךְ וְשִׁכְחִי עַמֵּךְ וּבֵית אָבִיךְ). For an individual is apt to forget his homeland and the customs of his country before forgetting hסדis father's house. The Scripture therefore writes: "Go for yourself" (לֶךְ לְךָ) so that you shall abandon and forget in the order of forgetfulness: first your country, then your kindred, and finally your father's house. >
However, according to Rashi, who explains that Avraham had already left his country, it must be that G-d commanded him to move even further away and to leave his father's house. The order is therefore very correct, because Avraham had already left his country and had settled in Haran. It was in Haran that G-d commanded Avraham to move even further away from his country and from his kindred, and, now that his father had settled in Haran, to leave his father's house as well. And see the Ramban. >
Our master also explained the reversal of the order in this verse in the name of his father the gaon (R. Avraham Glasner, 1826-78) as follows. The Scripture was providing a reason why G-d commanded Avraham to leave his homeland when his great achievement had been to proclaim the name of G-d and to bring people closer to monotheism. For surely the most appropriate place for Avraham to reside in would have been in his native country where, according to the tradition of our Sages, he had miraculously survived being thrown into a fiery furnace. However, someone who had been sent by G-d to admonish his contemporaries about their beliefs should first of all see to it that the members of his own household and his own family should also be inclining toward his beliefs and following in his path. But if members of his own family depart from his ways and, ignoring his rebuke, betray him, the public will conclude that he is insincere. For if he were sincere, how could his own household and his own family disregard his words? We know that the members of the household of Avraham's father were wicked, and that Avraham's own brother Haran just stood by in detached silence when Avraham was confronting his contemporaries. That is why the Scripture writes "go for yourself from you country" (לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ). And the reason for going is to leave "your kindred and your father's house" (וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ). For you must depart from there, because your kindred and your father's house are impeding your mission, because their bad example prevents your words from making an impression on those who are distant from you. >
וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם וכו' וַיֵּט אָהֳלֹה
And he moved from there . . . and pitched his tent (Genesis 12:8)
Rashi comments that the text is written "oholah" (אהלה) even though it is read "אהלו" (his tent) to teach us that he pitched his wife's tent first and only then pitched his own tent. The Siftei Hakhamim asks how Rashi knew that he pitched his wife's tent first. And it appears to our master that since the text is written before it is read, Rashi deduced that he pitched her tent ("אהלה") first and only then pitched his own tent ("אהלו").
As the Siftei Hakhamim said Avraham accorded his wife greater honor than he accorded himself. For even though Avraham presumably stayed in Sarah's tent until his own tent was pitched, he nevertheless acted deferentially toward her inasmuch as she was able to stay in her own tent all the while, but Avraham had to go from one tent to the other. >
ולאברם היטיב בעבורה
And he treated Abram well for her sake (Genesis 12:16)
Our Sages say that this teaches us that no blessing is found in a man's house except because of his wife. But one must wonder whether there is anyone who would hope for a blessing such as this - to receive presents because his wife has been abducted from him. And our master explained to us in the name of his father, the gaon, that the teaching must be deduced from the next part of the verse "and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she-asses, and camels" (וַיְהִי-לוֹ צֹאן-וּבָקָר, וַחֲמֹרִים, וַעֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחֹת, וַאֲתֹנֹת וּגְמַלִּים). But the Scripture does not say that Pharaoh gave these to Avraham. Nor would it have been the practice of a king to give presents in kind, but would only give gold and silver which would be readily available in his treasury. Where would Pharaoh have found the sheep and oxen to give Avraham? We also see that Avimelekh gave Avraham a thousand pieces of silver after taking Sarah. In those days kings were not involved in working the land, so they did not have large quantities of cattle and servants at their immediate disposal.
So it is clear that Pharaoh gave Avraham a generous amount of gold and silver, and Avraham then gave the funds to his wife, the mainstay of his house, to do with as she saw fit. He especially did so, because the funds came into his possession only for her sake. Now if Sarah our mother had preferred vanity and emptiness, or silk and embroidered clothes, or the finest serving dishes and utensils, all this wealth would have been quickly dissipated. But she truly was the mainstay of the house, and so she used the funds from Pharaoh to buy servants and cattle that would enrich their owners. And this is what the Scripture meant by saying "and he dealt well with Avraham for her sake." In other words, Avraham was benefitted "for her sake" because of her and through her and Avraham was benefitted and blessed by the estate that he received from Pharaoh. And the Scripture goes on to explain that "he had sheep and cattle . . ." which means that the gold and silver that he received from Pharaoh were exchanged for cattle and sheep and servants, because Sarah did not squander his wealth on unproductive things. Our Sages, therefore, understood the verse properly when they said that it shows that a blessing is not found in a man's house except because of his wife, for we see that, but for Sarah, even royal gifts would not have enriched Avraham.
ואברם בן שמונים ושש שנים בלדת הגר את ישמעאל לאברם
And Abram was eighty six years old, when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram (Genesis 16:16)
Rashi comments that this verse is written in praise of Yishmael - that although he was thirteen years old when he was circumcised, he did not resist. And many have seen this and wondered, for is it not written explicitly (Genesis 17:25) "and Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin" (וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנוֹ בֶּן שְׁלֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה בְּהִמֹּלוֹ אֵת בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתוֹ)? So why was it necessary to provide yet another indication that he was thirteen when he was circumcised?
The Siftei Hakhamim answers this question in two ways: 1) Since his age is mentioned twice, we may infer that Yishmael submitted to circumcision, because G-d commanded him to do so and not because he was afraid of his father; 2) the Scripture wanted to teach us that Yishmael was exactly thirteen years old, and that this is the age of adulthood for all Jewish males.
Our master, however, rejected the words of the Siftei Hakhamim, because that there was no need to repeat Yishmael's age to teach us that Yishmael was exactly thirteen years old. Once would have been enough. Nor does the age of adulthood for Noahides depend on chronological age, because no specific quantities were given to gentiles. Rather, we assess a person's judgment to determine whether it has attained the level of an adult. Nor is it correct, as the Siftei Hakhamim maintains, that Yishmael willingly allowed himself be circumcised to fulfill the commandment of G-d, because, as the Talmud tells us (Sanhedrin 59b), Yishmael and Eisav were not included among the progeny of Avraham. The commandment to be circumcised, therefore, did not apply to Yishmael. Nor was he, even though the son of a maidservant, considered to have been "born in his house" (יליד ביתו) or "bought with his money" (מקנת כספו), because Avraham, before he was circumcised, had the status, according to all opinions, of a Noahide, and a Noahide cannot acquire a property right in the person of a slave. Therefore, if a Noahide has a son from a maidservant, the boy has the status of a son, not of a slave, as our master has explained well in his pamphlet "חקור דבר". Nor did Avrham have any right to force his adult slaves to be circumcised against their will, just as the slave of a Jew who has been acquired from a Gentile who does not want to be circumcised cannot be circumcised, and may remain in the household of the Jew for twelve months without being circumcised, as the Talmud explains in Yevamot. A Jew could circumcise minor slaves born in his household (ילידי ביתו) or purchased with money (מקנת כספו) only if their mothers gave their consent for their sons to be circumcised to the בית דין since only the beit din may authorize the conversion of a minor.
However, our master explained that what the Scripture wished to teach us by indicating Yishmael's age twice was precisely that not only had Yishmael reached the age of thirteen, but that he also had achieved sufficient maturity to make his own decision for himself without anyone else exercising control over him. Nevertheless, he consented to be circumcised with a willing heart and soul. The Scripture therefore writes (Genesis 17:23) "And Avraham took Yishmael his son, and all that were born in his house" (ויקח אברהם את ישמאל בנו ואת כל יליד ביתו) - to teach us that he took them with words, as they say about the verse (Numbers 16:1) "Now Korah . . . took" (ויקח קרח), that he took them with words. These were words of persuasion and conciliation that induced all the adult males in Avraham's household (באנשי ביתו) to enter into the covenant, for only an adult is called a man (איש).