Sefer written by Rav Aharon Drazin
Reviewed by Rabbi BZ Karman
As the olam hatorah begins another cycle of Sefer Bereishis, they seek out new seforim with which to enhance their appreciation of the parshios with new insights to share with their fellow ohavei torah. This year, through the newly released Sefer Chesed L’Avrohom compiled by Reb Aharon Drazin, they will be privileged to enjoy a unique collection of maamarim and machshovos of some of the foremost gedolim of the past.
In each parashah, Chesed L’Avrohom supplies several original divrei torah from some of our greatest roshei yeshivos, rabbonim and rebbes which will certainly encourage lively discussions in all circles. Several years ago, Rav Michel Feinstein zt”l was shown the personal chiddushim of the mechaber and strongly encouraged their publication. One will encounter many as of yet unpublished chiddushim of Rav Michel Feinstein zt”l, under who the mechaber learned in his youth. Also included are many of these divrei torah, said on Shabbos before krias hatorah as by his shver, the Brisker Rov, as transcribed by Rav Michel’s talmid, Rav Yaakov Fogel. These include insights related in the name of Rav Michel’s father in law, the Brisker Rov. In his haskamah, Rav Michel writes that he allows the printing of not only what the mechaber heard himself, but what others heard, too.
Chesed L’Avrohom also contains numerous pieces from Rav Meir Soloveichik zt”l, including what Rav Meir said this past year on Parashas Vayechi, just months before his petirah.
As a resident of Montreal, Reb Aharon merited to hear many drashos from Rav Pinchos Hirschprung, the rov of the city. Chesed L’Avrohom brings many of these thoughts, as well as others that Rav Hirschprung quoted in the name of his illustrious rebbe, Rav Meir Shapiro of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. In addition, the author was a talmid of Telzer Yeshiva, and was privy to the writings of Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l.
Throughout the entire sefer, the names of the gedolei hadoros appear with their letters received from them by the author. In Parashas Vayechi, he discusses the question of how Yaakov Avinu was permitted to mention his father by name, which is generally prohibited. After bringing several answers that are suggested by various seforim. Chesed L’Avrohom brings a profound idea from his rebbe, Rav Michel zt”l. In the pasukim in Vayechi, Yaakov is describing zugos, the pairs of tzadikim who were buried in the Meoras Hamachpeilah. Since he was mentioning them in this context, which indicates their innate greatness, the prohibition does not apply.
A written response by Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi offers another insightful answer. In contrast to other names which are just a manner of identifying a person, the names of the avos hakedoshim as well as the name of Moshe Rabeinu define the essence of the individual and his lofty level. Thus, calling Avrohom Avinu by the title Avrohom is in no way denigrating his status; the opposite is indeed true, as we see that Hashem is referred to as Elokei Avrohom. Therefore, there is no prohibition for a son to mention the name of the avos. A similar thought is then advanced in the name of Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt”l. Additional explanations are brought from the Ben Ish Chai and Rav Dov Landau, and other gedolei hadoros. This topic appears in Parashas Chayei Sarah, too, with interesting psakim by Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, Rav Shmuel Wosner zt”l, and ybl”c Rav Chaim Kaniefsky.
The divrei torah of these luminaries are sprinkled with additional sources and questions mentioned in other seforim, as well as the authors own comparisons and thoughts. Often these are buttressed with additional mareh mikomos which allow the learner to pursue the ideas further.
The Sefer Chesed L’Avrohom is dedicated to the sacred memory of Reb Avrohom Abba Finkelstein of Antwerp-New York, the distinguished grandfather of the author. Reb Abba, as he was affectionately known, was known as a tremendous baal chesed, askan and mokir rabbanan. In connection with this, many pieces are quoted by various gedolim who Reb Avrohom Abba was closely associated with, including the rebbe the Beis Yisroel of Gur zy”a, Rav Shimeleh of Amshinov zy”a, the Admor of Kapishnetz zy”a, the Admor of Bobov zy”a and Rav Henkin zt”l. In the biography of his zeide, many interesting anecdotes involving Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Henkin, the Kapishnitzer Rebbe and Rav Shimileh of Amshinov appear.
In Parashas Chayei Sarah, a poignant thought is mentioned that Rav Avrohom Chaim Spitzer zt”l stated in the name of Rav Shimeleh. When Eliezer, the servant of Avrohom, repeated to Besuel his assignment, he said, “Ulai lo soveh he’ishah – perhaps the woman will not want to travel with me to Eretz Yisroel”. Rashi points out that the word ‘ulai’ is written without the letter vov, allowing the word to be read eilai, meaning ‘to me’. This comes to indicate that Eliezer conveyed to Rivka’s family that in his heart, he truly wished that Yitzchok would marry his own daughter. Avrohom told Eliezer that you are cursed, and my son is blessed, and they cannot be compatible.
This presents us with two glaring difficulties. First, this idea that Eliezer wanted Yitzchok for his own daughter does not appear in the original narrative, where Avrohom commands Eliezer to find a wife for his son. Why isn’t it mentioned there, and only appears where Eliezer is repeating the story to Rivka’s family? Second, in Eliezer’s repetition he adds that Avrohom blessed him that Hashem should make his endeavor a success. These words of Avrohom do not appear in the original description of Avrohom’s directive. Why did Eliezer add this now?
Rav Shimeleh’s fascinating answer gives us incredible insight. Eliezer was the trusted servant of Avrohom, and as such he was dedicated to carry out his instructions with alacrity. Indeed, his devoted service was rewarded with siyata dishmaya, and he was always able to complete his task with minimal exertion. Yet as he waited by the wellspring, he was faced with unusual uncertainty, as the pasuk states, “Vehaish mishtoei lah”. This caused him to ponder as to why he was faced with this unusual delay in completing his assignment. After some soul-searching, he was able to uncover his personal negios, his own partiality and bias, since deep in his heart he wished for his own daughter to be Yitzchok’s bride. This was a fault in his devotion, which prevented him from achieving immediate success. Only when he uncovered his flaw and eradicated it from his heart was he able to realize the unusual success that he had had in previous missions.
The Sefer Chesed L’Avrohom, which spans 307 pages, will delight the learners with its many interesting topics and variety of styles. The treasures of the giants of yesteryear together with the comments and additions of the mechaber will certainly provide lomdei torah with much to ponder and discuss throughout the year.