THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT VAYERA 5780
BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER
In the middle of this week’s Parsha, due to another famine, Avraham takes a trip with his family to the land of the Philistines where the local tribal king was Avimelech. When Avimelech is told that the beautiful Sarah was Avraham’s sister, he took her into his private home. At which point HaShem punished all the Philistines and prevented their wives from becoming pregnant. Eventually, when HaShem explained to Avimelech the true situation, and that Sarah was in fact Avraham’s wife, Avimelech relented, and allowed Avraham and Sarah to leave peacefully, and wealthier. In response, Avraham prayed to HaShem to rescind the punishment inflicted on the Philistine women – and HaShem listened.
The next section describes in detail the miraculous birth of Yitzchak. The juxtaposition of the episode of the conflict between Avraham and Avimelech, to HaShem's decision that Sarah should finally be blessed with pregnancy at the age of 90, is explained by Rashi - quoting the Gemara - "Hamitpalel ba'ad chavero, na'na techila." He who prays for his friend, is answered first.
This is a tremendously powerful message. Typically, when I am in great need of something, not only will I be willing to do almost anything to achieve it, I will invariably be wary of anyone else who needs the same thing. The last thing I would naturally do is to put my urgent need on hold and apply myself to addressing the other person’s need. If anything, I would be very jealous if that individual achieved the very thing I craved for - like waiting to see if I am upgraded on an El Al flight!
Not so Avraham Avinu. All their lives, he and Sarah dreamt of having a son worthy of carrying on the mantle of being a founder of the Jewish people. Yishmael had been a huge disappointment, and in any case, he wasn't from Sarah.
So when Avraham parted company with a not-very-pleasant Avimelech, instead of beating a hasty retreat, Avraham had this thoughtful urge to pray to HaShem that the Philistine women would again be able to bear children. This unadulterated love of his fellow man (Jew or Gentile) consumed him so much that it was the most natural thing in the world for Avraham to suggest to HaShem that Avimelech and his people had suffered enough.
To show how noble this trait is, HaShem rewarded him by also answering Avraham’s personal prayers. He who prays for his friend, is answered first.