The patriarch Avraham was the epitome of Chesed — kindness. His hospitality was exemplary and unmatched. Neither weather conditions, nor impaired health could prevent him from accommodating a guest with a hearty meal. Proof to this is related in this week’s parshah, Vayeira. In the heat of third day after his circumcision, when the wound was most painful and the patient typically most weakened, he noticed three wayfarers. Longing for guests, he pursued them and urged them to stop over at his tent, personally helping to prepare and serve them an elaborate meal.

In Avraham’s home, catering to guests and performing hospitality in a most elegant way was a way of life.

There is one thing in this scenario that is somewhat troubling, however. While lavish cuisines and gourmet food are acceptable when one can afford it, there is no justification for wasting food. The Torah prohibits wasting things in the familiar precept of bal tashchit (Devarim 20:19).

Nevertheless, Rashi in his commentary to the words “Avraham ran to the cattle, took a calf, tender and good,” (18:7) says that according to the Gemara (Bava Metzia 86b) this means that he actually took three calves in order to feed the guests “sholosh leshonot bechardel (שלש לשונות בחרדל) — three tongues in mustard.”

My friends, I do not profess to be an expert in culinary arts and menu planning, but from my personal experience I know that the main course at prominent dinners is usually prime rib of beef, or fillet mignon. Why did Avraham serve necessarily tongue and not one of the above? In this way he would only need to slaughter one animal instead of slaughtering three to obtain three tongues.

Moreover, a tongue from one animal should provide enough meat to serve even more than three people; why did he need an individual tongue for each one of his guests? They did not appear to be fresers — gluttons — who eat to excess. In fact they appeared to be ordinary nomads and did not exhibit any credentials attesting to their prominence, so why did Avraham go out of his way to prepare and serve his guests so lavishly? Would not a nice portion of chicken or slice of fish have sufficed the palate of these ordinary wayfarers?

Another difficulty is that chardal — mustard — is an inexpensive condiment that makes the tongue meat tastier. Avraham’s great generosity is demonstrated by telling us that he served them tongue, but stressing the sort of condiment seems of no relevance?

I once heard a very interesting interpretation on the words “sholosh leshonot bechardel,” which I would like to share with you, my listeners, and our dear Bar Mitzvah.

Our contemporary world offers profuse praise to Chabad for its establishment of Chabad Houses throughout the entire world that offer gashmiyut and ruchniyut — material and spiritual sustenance to all. But, I would venture to say that the originator of this idea and the first Chabad House was the home of Avraham and Sarah. In our parshah we are told “Vayita eishel b’Be’er Shava, vayikra sham Avraham b’sheim Hashem E-l olam — “He planted an eishel in Be’er Sheva, and there he proclaimed the Name of Hashem, G‑d of the universe” (21:33). Rashi explains that an “eishel” is an inn for lodging. The word “eishel” (אשל) is an acronym for achilah — eating — shetiyah — drinking — and linah — sleeping, the three basic services a host should provide his guests. By means of that eishel, he caused that the name of Hashem was proclaimed as the G‑d of the entire universe.

Avraham would invite travelers to his eishel and then use the opportunity to propagate G‑dliness and promote a lofty path for humanity as related in Gemara (Sotah 10b). After the wayfarers ate and drank they stood up to bless Avraham, he would say to them, “was it then of my food that you ate? You ate from the food of G‑d of the world. Rather, you should thank, praise and bless He who spoke and caused the world to come into being” (see also Tosafot Shantz, ibid).

The words “sholosh leshonot bechardel” — which literally means “three tongues in mustard” — can also be explained to mean that Avraham entered into a conversation with his unknown guests and offered them three leshonot - three interpretations or versions — b’chardal ,of the word b’chardal.

Avraham told them that the word b’chardal” (בחרדל) can be divided into two words and set up in three different ways. Each way implies a very important message as to how an upright person should conduct himself.

The three two words messages of bechardel are:

1) Racheiv dal (רַחֵב דַל) — “broaden” the needy — help them to emerge from their narrow circumstances and poverty — material or spiritual.

2) Chadal rav (חַדַל רַב) — avoid pursuit of (material) affluence.

3) Chareid leiv (חַרֵד לֵב) — a fearful heart [for Hashem].

These are the lessons that Avraham Avinu imparted to these three guests, exemplifying his message to all humanity and his legacy to his descendants.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, I fervently wish and pray that throughout your life you resolve to be “mitalmidov shel Avraham avinu — among the disciples of Avraham our father.” At present be a racheiv dal — by bringing Jews closer to Torah and mitzvot. In the future may you be blessed with financial success and share your blessings with those in need. You should also be a chadal rav. Hashem will provide you with abundance, but your primary pursuit should always be spiritual affluence. Finally, may you be a chareid leiv — a true Chassidish G‑d fearing Jew.

Being a student of Avraham will merit you what the Mishnah (Avot 4:19) assures: “The disciples of Avraham our father enjoy this world and inherit the world to come, as it is said ‘that I may cause those who love Me to inherit substance, and that I may fill their treasures’” (Proverbs 8:21).


Avraham practiced kindness and hospitality limitlessly. Regardless who the orei’ach — guest — was, he treated him cordially and served him lavishly. According to Rashi (18:7), based on a Gemara (Bava Metzia 87a), he prepared three calves for his guests because he wanted to serve a tongue in mustard to each of them.

Tongue is an expensive part of an animal while mustard is a cheap condiment. Telling us that he served them tongue demonstrates his generosity, but what is the significance of telling us that mustard accompanied the tongue?

When Avraham noticed the travelers in the desert, he ran towards them and urged them to come to his tent for some food, telling them “I will bring bread that you may sustain yourselves.” Once they came in, he prepared three calves in order to serve each one a tongue in mustard. Of this behavior the Gemara (Ibid.) says, “The righteous say little and do much.”

By serving his guests specifically tongue in mustard, Avraham intended to impart a message: Mustard is difficult to eat in large amounts, and a little bit on the tip of one’s tongue is sufficient. The tongue, moreover, is the main speech organ of the human being.

When Avraham offered to prepare only some bread, they replied, “Do just as you have said,” implying that his talking and doing should be of equal measure. To justify his extravagance he took the tongue, which represents talking, and served it in mustard, as if to say to them, “Just as the tongue can tolerate only a very limited amount of mustard, likewise the use of the tongue — one’s speaking — should be very limited, while one’s actions should exceed one’s speaking many times over.”

This is also a message to you, my dear Bar Mitzvah. As you grow up you will encounter many people who are “big talkers.” However, in Torah we commend the doers, not the talkers, as we are taught in Avot 1:15, “Say little and do much.”

I often hear people wishing a Bar Mitzvah that he should be “a good Jew,” and I wonder what is the meaning of this expression?

Permit me to share with you a story I recently heard which will cast light on what it means to be a good Jew. Once, while a little boy was playing with ABC blocks, he called his mother to come to his room. When she entered he told her in amazement that he just figured out that the word G‑O-O-D is really composed of two words GO and DO. His mother exclaimed, “You are indeed right, my child: when we ‘go’ and ‘do,’ G‑d will help that everything will turn out good.”


According to an opinion in Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 53:10), the first Bar Mitzvah to be celebrated is recorded in this week’s parshahVayeira. The pasuk relates that “Vayigdal hayeled vayigamal” — “The child (Yitzchak) grew up and was weaned” — “vaya’as Avraham mishteh gadol beyom higameil et Yitzchak” — “and Avraham made a great feast on the day Yitzchak was weaned” (21:8).

Rashi explains that the word “vayigamal” refers to his weaning from breast feeding at the end of twenty four months. According to an opinion in Midrash Rabbah (53, 10), it means that he was weaned from yitzro — his (evil) inclination. [Up to the age of thirteen the Yeitzer Hara has major control over the person and upon reaching thirteen, his Yeitzer Tov — Good Inclination — enters in full force to assist him in his obligation of Torah and mitzvot — See Rav Shulchan Aruch 4:2]

The Torah’s description that the event was a “mishteh gadol” — “great feast” — could be interpreted quantitatively — as a big, lavish banquet. This would concur with the halachah that one should celebrate his son’s Bar Mitzvah with a festive meal, similar to the meal on the day he enters chuppah — marriage. (See Beir Heitaiv 225:4.) The Midrash, however, considers it qualitatively — the greatness of the meal was that the Great One — Hashem — was present, or that it was a feast for great people. (Og and many great men, such as the Kings of Canaan, were present.)

At the meal they said to Og, “Did you not say that Avraham was like a barren mule and cannot beget a child?” Og responded, “Even now, what is the value of his gift? Is Yitzchak not small and weak? I can crush him by putting my finger on him.” Said Hashem to him, “Why are you disparaging My gift? By your life, you will see countless thousands and myriads of his descendants, and your fate will be to fall into their hands as it says ‘Hashem said to Moshe, fear him not; for I have delivered him into your hand’” (Bamidbar 21:34). (And later on, the kings of Canaan fell into the hands of Yehoshua.)

Despite the fact that Avraham was a king (see Bereishit Rabbah 42:5), and benefitted from a treaty with the neighboring kings (22:27), many disliked Avraham for the path he followed. Though many of his powerful counterparts laughed at Avraham and scoffed at his successor Yitzchak, Avraham was not distressed but continued in his path of doing righteousness and justice and converting many a soul to the religion he propagated. (See Rambam, Avodah Zara 1:3.)

The message to you, my dear Bar Mitzvah, is the following: Throughout the millennia the Jewish people have been a minority among the nations of the world. Many powerful governments have sought our destruction and have predicted our oblivion. The fact is we survived them and will continue to exist. In contemporary times Og’s successors denigrate and ridicule us. Nevertheless, we continue to survive. The secret of our success is our attachment to Torah and mitzvot. Follow in the path of our ancestors, and a glorious future lies ahead of you.


For a period of time Yitzchak and Yishmael grew up together in the home of Avraham and Sarah. Suddenly, Sarah harshly told her husband Avraham, “Chase out this slave woman (Hagar) and her son (Yishmael).” What happened that she ordered him to banish Yishmael? The Torah tells us, “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian ‘m’tzacheik’ — mocking” [or: playing; making sport]. Out of concern that he was a bad influence and threat to the spiritual health — and perhaps the very life — of Yitzchak, she wanted Yishmael and his mother out of their home immediately.

Sarah’s own son’s was named “Yitzchak.” Superficially, Yitzchak’s name and the word for Yishmael’s negative action have a common shoresh — root — meaning laughter or to play. What is the difference between “m’tzacheik” and Yitzchak?”

The difference is that m’tzacheik is in the present tense and Yitzchak is the future tense. But not only is there a grammatical difference, the words represent and depict a profound ideological difference as to the two sons’ outlook on life and human behavior.

Sarah saw that Yishmael’s philosophy was that life is a temporary stay on this mundane and earthly world and the dust that covers a person after his demise ends it all. Thus, his primary goal was getting the most of out life now, with no worries or thinking about the future. These are the people who are described by the prophet Isaiah (22:13) as saying “Eat and drink [today] for tomorrow we die.” To those people life is a joke and they mock the teaching and guidance of Torah. Leading such a lifestyle can lead one to become thoroughly corrupt and evil to the extent of committing the three cardinal sins: idolatry, adultery and murder (see Rashi).

Our mother Sarah sought to impress her son that life is a very serious matter. Life on this world is a sojourn and a period of transition. The goal is to attain a lofty and exalted place in the world to come. Torah is not, G‑d forbid, a joke, and mitzvot are not a play or sport. A Jew must always have the “tomorrow” in mind. A person must reflect on what effect his actions of today will have on his tomorrow — his future — in this world and the World to Come. Following a Torah lifestyle provides one with the recipe to achieve Yitzchak — he will laugh — happiness and enjoyment in the future.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, you are fortunate to have grown up in a home where your parents and grandparents have lived according to the Yitzchak philosophy. They sent you to yeshiva to be inculcated with this lifestyle and approach. Hopefully, you will continue in this path and thus, your parents will reap the nachas that will make them Yitzchak — filled with happiness, joy, and delight.