Sunday, August 27, 2017
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Sunday, August 13, 2017
With regard to the time during which Avraham lived in the land of the Philistines, this week’s Torah portion tells us:27 “And Avraham planted an eshel, a tamarisk tree… and there he called in the name of G‑d, L-rd of the world” i.e., he publicized G‑d’s presence28 “And Avraham lived in the land of the Philistines for an extended period.” It is after these verses that the Torah tells us about the binding of Yitzchak.
The question arises: What lesson can we learn from the fact that Avraham planted a tamarisk tree? Previously, the Torah described the greatness of Avraham, relating how although he was the one and only Jew, and that he spread faith in the one G‑d. After such heights of devotion, what is added by the fact that he planted a tamarisk tree? And how does planting a tamarisk tree relate to the narrative of the binding of Yitzchak?
The tamarisk is a large tree with broad branches. Since Avraham was living in a desert, he planted such a tree to provide wayfarers with protection from the scorching sun. The Talmud29 extends the interpretation of the Hebrew word eshel , explaining that it refers not to only one tree, but to an orchard. Avraham planted an orchard so that passersby could refresh themselves with the fruit.
The Talmud also offers a second interpretation, stating that eshel refers to an inn. Besides fruit, Avraham gave wayfarers bread and meat, drink and lodging.30 Indeed, the Midrash31 states that he even provided his guests with a court of law in which they could settle any dispute that might arise among them.
Avraham did not content himself with providing bread, salt and water, so that his guests’ basic needs would be met. He did not provide only the bare minimum; he gave his guests items which brought them pleasure: fruit, wine, delicacies and lodging; and gave them also a court to resolve their difficulties.
Sotah, loc. cit.; see Rashi’ s gloss.
Midrash, as quoted in Rabbeinu Bachaye in his gloss to Bereishis 21:33.
Bereishis Rabbah 54:6.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
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