Sunday, October 28, 2018

Killed for Your Sake - Brokenness and Comfort - Rav Moshe Weinberger - Lech Lecha 5779

Although he did not know it at the time, Rav Moshe Weinberger delivered this drasha, focusing on how we give our lives in every generation at the hands of those who kill us because we are Jews, and how how G-d comforts us, less than an hour after 11 Jews were slaughtered by an evil terrorist at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, PA.

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from Shabbos, parshas Lech Lecha 5779. Rav Weinberger has reviewed this write-up and any corrections are incorporated herein. Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at's website by Rav Weinberger both as leader of Emek HaMelech, as former Mashpia at YU, and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayeira 5779
Killed for Your Sake – Brokenness and Comfort

We know Chazal teach us that “The deeds of the Avos are a sign for the children” (see Midrash Tanchuma 9). This does not simply mean that we must learn from the lives of the Avos. It also means that we live with what they did and what happened to them every day. The events of their lives course through our veins and us at all times.

When Hashem appeared to Avraham at the beginning of the parsha, Chazal explain that He was fulfilling the mitzvah to visit the sick (see Rashi on Bereishis 18:1). We know Avraham was sick because it was the third day after giving himself a bris (Sota 14a).

The underlying principle behind how one fulfills the mitzvah of visiting the sick in halachah is lightening the burden of the individual’s sickness (see Shita Mikubetzes on Nedarim 41a). This has three elements: (i) helping the person with whatever he or she needs; (ii) praying for the person’s welfare in his presence; and (iii) asking the person how he is doing (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 193:3). This is what Hashem was doing for Avraham. How do we see this visit as a sign in our lives now? How do we see that Hashem visits us when we suffer today?

Rav Mordeichai Yehuda Lubart zt’l, a great talmid chacham and Gerer chassid  who suffered through and survived the Holocaust, explains in his sefer Milchamos Yehuda that bris mila sanctifies G-d’s name in a similar way as when a Jew gives his life to stay true to his or her faith. He bases this on the Gemara’s statement that the passuk, “For we are killed for Your sake all of the time” (Tehillim 43:23) refers to bris mila, which also involves the shedding of Jewish blood (Gittin 43b).

The connection between bris mila and the self-sacrifice inherent in allowing one’s blood to be shed sanctifying G-d’s name is also apparent based on Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 265:27), which explains that we do not say the celebratory Shehechiyanu blessing at a bris, even though we rarely get the opportunity to do this mitzvah, because of the Jewish blood being spilled and the child’s pain. We cannot say Shehechiyahu because our joy at the bris mila is not complete. Bris mila, like sacrificing ourselves for G-d’s sake, is a fulfillment of “And I shall be sanctified among the children of Israel” (Vayikra 22:32).

When we go through a period of seeing Jewish blood being shed, just like Avraham Avinu went through when he drew his own blood at the time of his bris mila, we feel broken and sick, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. We need encouragement, strength, support, and greater confidence. That is why Hashem appeared to Avraham after his bris, to help him with whatever he needed and give him support, encouragement, and love. He gave Avraham new life and a feeling of rejuvenation through His visit, after which Avraham felt strong enough to return to welcoming and serving travelers.

How do we see Hashem visiting us through all of the times where Jewish blood has been spilled throughout Jewish history, when we need encouragement, strength, and Hashem’s help more than ever? After the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash, Hashem sent us the light of Purim, and then Chanukah. After the desolation and murder at the time of the Romans’ destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, Hashem sent the light of Rabbi Akiva, and his great disciple Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who brought down the inner light of Torah into the world. Following the expulsion of the Jews of Spain, we were blessed with the light of the Arizal. After the brokenness of the Cossack (Tach V’tat) and the Chmielnicki massacres of the mid-1600’s, Hashem sent the Baal Shem Tov into the world.

And following the absolute decimation of our people during the Holocaust, no one could imagine even simple acts of normalcy like getting married or having children, much less recreating yeshivos or learning Torah. Although we felt that we were “despised and isolated from men, a man of pains and accustomed to illness” (Yeshayahu 53:3), we still held onto the recognition that “All of this has befallen us, but we have not forgotten You, nor have we betrayed Your covenant” (Tehillim 44:18). Hashem began visiting and comforting us by opening up the gates of Eretz Yisroel to all Jews and enabling us to renew our life as a people in our own land, and thereby renew the study of Torah in the most remarkable way. He caused the revival of Torah learning and yeshivos in the diaspora as well, not to mention the vibrant baal teshuva movement of the 1960’s.

Yet even with all of those ways that Hashem has consoled us, the Holocaust was a level of destruction we have never known throughout all of human history. We therefore need a revelation of Hashem’s Presence never before seen in human history. We must beg Hashem to complete His appearance in our lives like He did with Avraham Avinu.

To counteract our unprecedented pain, we require an unprecedented expression of His Presence to comfort and heal us. We must daven that Hashem completes His visit by taking away all pain, healing all wounds, and drawing down into the world the light we have been waiting for throughout the millennia, the light of Moshiach and the advent of the next world here on earth with the complete redemption.

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