1.

This week’s Torah portion of Va’eira begins with the words of Hashem to Moshe describing the unique Divine revelation he has merited. “I revealed Myself to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as E-l Sha-ddai,” G‑d says, [“but it doesn’t compare to the way I revealed Myself to you for] through My Name Hashem I did not become known to them.”

The most famous commentary on Torah is that of Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki. His style is to begin every comment with a caption consisting of the Biblical words the comment is explaining.

Now, the Torah says “I appeared to Avraham and to Yitzchak and to Yaakov.” Rashi in his caption writes “I appeared to the Avot [the Patriarchs, our forefathers.]” Why didn’t Rashi write the caption the same way as stated in the pasuk?

Some want to say that Rashi actually wrote the names, Abraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, but for the sake of brevity a copyist/typesetter subsequently shortened the phrase. Since the common denominator of the three was that they were avot — fathers — of the Jewish nation, instead of listing the three names, the typesetter saved space and wrote in the caption “I appeared el ha’avot — to the fathers.”

I don’t know if this is correct or not, but it sounds very strange to say that every edition henceforth followed in the footsteps of this copyist and employed the same austerity measure to save the ink or space of a few letters.

Let me therefore share with you an explanation given to this by the famous Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the renowned Chatam Sofer of Pressburg.

The word “avot” stems from the word “avah” which means “want,” as in “velo avah” — “he [Pharaoh] did not want” (10:27). Rashi is telling us that Hashem said to Moshe, “I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov because they wanted to have contact with Me.” Every Jew can have Hashem appear to him if he wants.

In this I see a very important lesson to a Chatan and Kallah: The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that the Hebrew word for husband ish (איש) and the Hebrew word for wife ishah (אשה) both have the letters alef and shin, but they differ in that ish contains a yud while ishah includes a hei. These two letters are the first two letters of Hashem’s Name. When a couple merits, Hashem is with them and otherwise, they are eish (אש) — fire — and become consumed.

Undoubtedly, standing under the Chuppah and partaking in this loftiest and most ecstatic experience of your lifetime, you are focused on meriting that His Divine Presence should be with you throughout your married life.

The way to merit that Hashem reveal Himself to you is by avot — sincerely wanting. But desire alone is insufficient. You must demonstrate your desire in a tangible way. Because Avraham wanted to merit Divine revelation, he dedicated his entire life to chesed — acts of kindness. Yitzchak was the prototype of serving Hashem through prayer and Yaakov proved his eagerness to merit Divine revelation through living a life of Torah study.

Dear Chatan and Kallah: follow the example of our forefathers. Show by your involvement in Torah study, prayer and deeds of kindness that you want Hashem’s yud and hei to be part and parcel of your married life as husband and wife, and indeed He will grant your desire and dwell with you.


2.

Rashi’s comment on the second verse of our sidrah has perplexed other commentaries of the Chumash.

G‑d speaks to Moshe saying, “And I appeared unto Avraham, unto Yitzchak and unto Yaakov” (Shemot 6:3). Rashi comments, “Va’eira el ha’avot” — “And I appeared to the fathers.” What does Rashi mean? Anyone who reads the verse and sees the names Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov knows that the reference is to the avot — Patriarchs of our people?

The explanation offered by the great Chassidic master, Rabbi Meir Premishlaner, has an important message for all. He believes that Rashi wanted to stress the important role of each of the Patriarchs in the founding of our people. Yitzchak was an av — father — (Patriarch) not merely because he was the son of Avraham, but because he himself was a spiritual and intellectual giant. Yaakov was an av — father — (Patriarch) not simply because he was the son of Yitzchak and the grandson of Avraham, but because he himself was a towering figure. Each was an av — a father — (Patriarch) i.e. a founder and builder of Am Yisrael, in his own right. Each one’s own righteousness, qualities of character and devotion to lofty tenets of integrity, kindness and service earned him his recognition.

The Sages refer to Avraham as the amud hachessed,” “the foundation of kindness,” to Yitzchak as the “amud ha-avodah,” the “foundation of service and sacrifice,” and to Yaakov as the “amud ha-Torah,” the “foundation of Torah.” Without these three foundations, they say, the world cannot exist (Avot 1:2).

Rashi is thus telling us that Hashem was conveying to Moshe a message of cardinal importance concerning what He anticipates from His children the B’nei Yisrael. Yitzchak indeed had an illustrious yichus — pedigree — he was the son of the great Avraham. His father, Avraham, was the founder of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, Hashem revealed Himself to him, not because of his past but his present. That is, he too was an av — he had his own credit and yichus. He was the innovator and ardent developer of the Pillar of Avodah — serving Hashem in prayer.

Now his son Yaakov had even greater yichus to be proud of. Not only did he have an illustrious father, Yitzchak, but he was also an einikel — a grandchild — of the first and greatest Jew of the world. Hashem, however, was not moved by his impressive past. He merited Divine revelation because he was an av — a father and founder of the Pillar of Torah. It is he who can be credited with passing on to his progeny the unparalleled values of studying in the citadels of Torah learning. It was not their past family history that impressed Hashem, rather, it was their original contributions that He cherished.

A story is told of a group of Chassidic Rebbes sitting together around the table. They were not so great on their own, but they were all children and einiklach — grandchildren — of some of the greatest Chassidic masters and were very proud of their lineage. The greatest of all of them had no yichus to boast about. His father was a simple Jew who derived his livelihood as a bread baker.

Each one of them related a Torah thought emphasizing that he was saying it in the name of his holy father or grandfather. When it came the turn of the greatest of them to say something he prefaced it with the following. “My father, the simple baker, taught me that fresh bread is better and healthier than stale bread.”

My dear Chatan and Kallah, as you are aware I have known your families for many years. I can attest without any reservations to the glorious and envious yichus you may be proud of. But knowing the both of you as well, I am confident that you will not just live off the dividends of your parents’ glory, but will strive to be avot — make your own great contributions to the Jewish community which will surely earn you the acclamation, praise and blessing of Hashem and the entire Jewish people.