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Berachos 64


(a) The Gemara tells us that when one parts from his friends, they ought to wish each other that they may travel "peacefully" (la'Shalom) and not just "in peace" (ba'Shalom). The Vilna Gaon (as quoted by Pardes Yosef) explains, based on this, the following verse at the beginning of Vayeshev: "The brothers (were so upset with Yosef that they) could not speak with him *peacefully* (la'Shalom)." Out of their contempt for Yosef, they could not bring themselves to bless Yosef with the word la'Shalom, as one does to the living.

(b) QUESTION: If one is not supposed to bless his friend with the word "ba'Shalom" upon parting, why did Yakov (in Parshas Vayetze) ask Hashem to return him "in peace" ("peacefully") to his father's home?


(a) Why is it preferable to bless the living with the word "la'Shalom?"The Semichas Chachamim and Iyun Yakov explain that a living person must never stay on the same spiritual level. He must always be climbing and accomplishing. A dead person, on the other hand, has already attained whatever spiritual level it is that he will reach. That is why we wish the living to go "towards peace" ("la'Bavel"), that is, towards a greater and holier spiritual level, while we wish the not living to "rest *in* peace" (ba'Shalom).

Normally, we wish the other person that he may rise higher and higher upon parting with us. Yakov, by saying "ba'Shalom," meant to say "I will even be satisfied if I return from the house of Lavan on the *same* spiritual level that I am at present." (KOHELES YITZCHAK on Parashas Vayetze)

(b) Alternatively, perhaps Yakov was indeed requesting to be returned to his father's house *after death*, and that is why he used the word "ba'Shalom." That is, he was asking Hashem to allow him to be buried in the Cave of Machpelah along with his father. This wish was granted to him when Esav accepted all of Yakov's wealth in return for his portion in the Cave (see Rashi, Bereishis 50:5). (M. Kornfeld)

The Gemara explains that one who partakes from a meal which is attended by a Talmid Chacham is as if he has partaken from the Glory of the Shechinah. This statement may be the key to understanding the bizarre contention of the concluding Beraisa in Maseches Sofrim, which states that "the amount of food and drink that Avraham consumed was enough for seventy-four men." What is meant by this cryptic statement of the Sages? The Vilna Gaon explains as follows:

In Parashas Vayera we are told that three guests visited Avraham after his historic circumcision (Bereishit 18:2). Avraham offered them a meal fit for kings (ibid. 5-8). Although we are told that these guests were actually angels (Rashi Breishit 18:1), the Torah concludes that the guests ate what they were offered (18:8). Since when do the heavenly hosts eat food?

The Torah tells us at the end of Parashas Mishpatim, "Moshe, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel climbed [Mount Sinai]... . They gazed at Hashem and they ate and they drank" (Shmot 24:9-11). According to Avos d'Rebbi Nasan 1:8, this means that they were nourished from the Glory of the Divine Presence as the angels are "nourished."

How many people partook of this "meal" at Mt. Sinai? The seventy elders, Moshe and Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, or a total of *seventy-four* people. The meal that Avraham "fed" the angels, suggests the Vilna Gaon, consisted of the same Glory of the Divine Presence of which these seventy four men partook. This is why Avraham's divine visitors were able to "eat" with him. Rather than eating the physical food that they were served, the angels were actually dining on spiritual, other-worldly food -- the kind of meal in which the 74 people at Mt. Sinai participated! (Vilna Gaon, quoted in Kol Eliyahu #239 and in Midrash Peliah, Warsaw 1910 #17)

But where did the angels find their staple at Avraham's table? We may explain, based on our Gemara, that since Avraham was attending to their meal, it was truly "a meal in which a Talmid Chacham is present." In such a meal, one is indeed able to thrive on the Glory of the Divine Presence! (M. Kornfeld)

On to Shabbos


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