VaYera – Aner Eshkol and Mamre

This week’s Parsha begins with the Bikur Cholim of HaShem to Avrohom after the Milah. But the Pasuk[1] tells us where this visitation took place – B’Alonei Mamre – in the plain of Mamre. Rashi tell us[2] that the reason this is mentioned is because Mamre is the one who gave Avrohom the advice to perform the Bris Milah. This is not the first time they are mentioned. As it says in the battle of Sedom, they were the allies of Avrohom- the Ba’aleei Bris[3]. The Midrash also says[4] that one of the meanings of name of Kiryat Arba, the city of four, is that four Tzadikim lived there; Avrohom and his three allies. They also appear peripherally when after the Akeidah Avrohom contemplates having Yitzchok marry one of their daughters, and HaShem informs Avrohom that Rivkah his proper wife was born[5]. Who are these people and what is their importance?

In the boundary between the end of last week’s Parsha and the beginning of this week, the Midrash[6] describes a discussion between Avrohom and his three friends. When HaShem commands Avrohom to perform Bris Milah, he goes to get advice from his friends. Aner says, you are already one hundred years old, why are you putting yourself in such physical pain. Eshkol says, Why are you making such a differentiation between you and the world around you? Mamre though says, HaShem who stood by you in all the people who tried to stop you, and now you will not do what he wants! Therefore the revelation of HaShem is in the field of Mamre.

That itself is puzzling, if HaShem commands something why do you need advice? And if they are Tzadikim why are they advising him to not listen to HaShem? Also, according to one Agadata they all three also performed Bris Milah, but then died. What does that mean?

Possibly one can say the following. Aner is Hebrew is the same letters as Na’ar[7]– a youth. We find this phrase by Yosef that he is involved in his physical appearance. He remains a youth. Aner says to Avrohom, why should you put yourself through pain? A Na’ar wants an easy pain free life. Even though you are one hundred years old, why do this? Aner disappears. After this incident he never appears in Tanach again. A Na’ar is apassing phase that one goes through and then disappears.

Eshkol has a claim in what seems Ruchniyos. By doing Bris Milah you will not be part of the rest of humanity and set yourself apart. How can you do such a thing? Your essence is to influence people and how can you be so different? Eshkol reappears in the incident of the Meraglim. The Meraglim who want to remain in the desert, bring back an Eshkol of grapes. They are trying to say that the Land of Eretz Yisroel is unusual and different. Why should we there and make ourselves unusual. Even though the Midbar is even more different, but the nations have adjusted to us being in the Midbar. But going to Eretz Yisroel will be strange. That is Eshkol.

But Mamre is the one who understands correctly. He knows that the word of HaShem is correct no matter what we think might be better or more logical. Therefore that is the true revelation of HaShem in the world and where HaShem appears to Avrohom.

But in another Midrash it says that after they all heard the logic of Mamre, they agreed with him. And then they all did Bris Milah with Avrohom. And then they all died! Why?

There is a general Halacha that a non-Jew who keeps certain Mizvoth is punishable by death. The most famous is Shabbat, but there are also two others- the study of Torah, and Bris Milah. All of these are a covenant between us and HaShem. As the Sfas Emes explains, performing one of these Mitzvoth as a non-Jew is the equivalent of adultery. It is coming between us and HaShem in our unique relationship. As great as these three friends of Avrohom were, they were not invited into the Bris.

The Shem MiShmuel discussed this idea at great length in this week’s Parsha (5672). It is based on the writings of the AriZ”L, and summarizing his summary he writes the following. Everything in the world is connected back to HaShem. This is true in the physical world and even more so in the spiritual world. In order that everything including even the lowest physical inanimate object be connected to HaShem there needs to be a series of connections, whereby everything has something slightly above or below it that is part of this string of connections. This includes humanity which is the connection between the spiritual level of the Jews and the physical level of the world. What lifts us above the physical level of the world is Milah which is given on the eighth day. That always represents above the physical. Avrohom’s question was if I lift myself so far above the world, the connection will be lost. Mamre’s answer was, that if HaShem commanded you that is not your issue. You do the will of HaShem and he will run the world accordingly. That is why HaShem then appears in the field of Mamre, that HaShem is still present in this world.

That could also be why when Avrohom buys the Ma’aros HaMachpela it says that all the physical parts of the field were lifted up. And it is described as “before Mamre”. This is what Mamre gave the advice to Avrohom. This can lift all the physical thigs to a new level.

Even though they to do the Bris, they do not live. I think based on the Shem MiShmuel, that when they saw what Avrohom accomplished through the Bris, they also desired it. But it is beyond them, and they cannot continue in the world like that.

[1]  ספר בראשית פרק יח  – וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְדֹוָד בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא ישֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם:

[2]  רש”י על בראשית פרק יח פסוק א –  באלוני ממרא – הוא שנתן לו עצה על המילה לפיכך נגלה עליו בחלקו (ב”ר):

[3]  בראשית פרק יד – (יג) וַיָּבֹא הַפָּלִיט וַיַּגֵּד לְאַבְרָם הָעִבְרִי וְהוּא שֹׁכֵן בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא הָאֱמֹרִי אֲחִי אֶשְׁכֹּל וַאֲחִי עָנֵר וְהֵם בַּעֲלֵי בְרִית אַבְרָם:

[4]  ילקוט שמעוני בראשית – פרק כג – המשך רמז קב – ותמת שרה בקרית ארבע …ולמה קורא אותה קרית ארבע שדרו בה ארבעה צדיקים ענר אשכול וממרא ואברהם ושמלו בה ארבעה צדיקים אברהם ענר אשכול

[5]  רש”י על בראשית פרק כב – (כ) אחרי הדברים האלה ויגד וגו’ – בשובו מהר המוריה היה אברהם מהרהר ואומר אילו היה בני שחוט כבר היה הולך בלא בנים היה לי להשיאו אשה מבנות ענר אשכול וממרא בשרו הקב”ה שנולדה רבקה בת זוגו…

[6]  מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה מב פסקה ח –  בשעה שאמר הקב”ה לאברהם לימול הלך ונמלך בג’ אוהביו אמר לו ענר כבר בן ק’ שנה אתה ואתה הולך ומצער את עצמך אמר לו אשכול מה את הולך ומסיים את עצמך בין שונאיך אמר לו ממרא אלהיך שעמד לך בכבשן האש ובמלכים וברעבון והדבר הזה שאמר לך למול אין אתה שומע לו אמר לו הקב”ה אתה נתתה לו עצה למול חייך שאיני נגלה עליו לא בפלטין של ענר ולא בפלטין של אשכול אלא בפלטין שלך הה”ד (בראשית יח) וירא אליו ה’ באלוני ממרא:

[7]  ספר יסוד העבודה – חלק ב מכתב מו  – ענר אותיות נער

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