SALT - Tuesday, 16 Cheshvan 5781 - November 3, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Vayeira that after Avraham hosted three wayfarers, who turned out to be angels, he escorted them as they began making their way towards Sedom, where they would rescue Lot before the city’s destruction.  After Avraham escorted the angels, God spoke to Avraham and informed him of His plans to annihilate Sedom and its surrounding cities, whereupon Avraham proceeded to plead that God spare the city.  After he finished praying, the Torah writes, “The Lord went when He finished speaking to Avraham, and Avraham returned to his place” (18:33). 
            Ibn Ezra (see also Seforno) explains, very simply, that Avraham returned to his home in Chevron.  He had escorted the angels some distance away from his home, and it was there, at the spot where he bid them farewell, that God spoke to him and he prayed on behalf of Sedom.  After he finished praying, he returned home.  Ibn Ezra notes that later (19:27-28), we read that Avraham returned to the place where he had prayed for Sedom, and there he saw smoke rising from the region, which was consumed by fire.  Clearly, then, the place where God spoke to Avraham and informed him about Sedom’s destruction was some distance from his home in Chevron, along the route towards the Jordan River Valley, at a location where the valley becomes visible.  Thus, when the Torah says that Avraham “returned to his place” after completing his prayer, it means that Avraham returned to his home in Chevron.
            Rav Yechezkel Halberstam of Shinova, in Divrei Yechezkel, finds deeper significance in the Torah’s emphasis on Avraham’s returning “to his place” after completing his prayer on Sedom’s behalf.  Avraham’s prayer, of course, did not achieve its desired result.  Sedom and its surrounding cities were destroyed and their inhabitants killed despite Avraham’s entreaties.  The phrase “and Avraham returned to his place,” the Divrei Yechezkel writes, alludes to the fact that Avraham was unfazed by his unsuccessful prayer.  He lost neither his faith nor his vitality.  He continued devotedly serving God as before, despite his impassioned prayer being unsuccessful.  According to the Divrei Yechezkel, the Torah here alludes here to the importance of overcoming disappointment, the ability to “return to our places,” to maintain our composure and our joy, even when our wishes go unfulfilled, when our prayers go unanswered, when our aspirations go unrealized.  Just as Avraham “returned to his place” after his unsuccessful prayer, similarly, we must try to persevere and not fall into despair when we experience failure and do not accomplish what we had hoped to accomplish.