Thursday, November 23, 2006

Two Kinds of Scoffers

וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדת יִצְחָק, בֶּן-אַבְרָהָם: אַבְרָהָם, הוֹלִיד אֶת-יִצְחָק.
And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begot Isaac. (Ber. 25:19)

Rashi: Because the scoffers of the generation (the “leitzanei ha dor”) said that Sarah was impregnated from Avimelech, since for several years she stayed with Avraham and did not become pregnant from him. What did HKBH do? He formed the facial features of Yitzchok to be similar to Avraham, and everyone bore witness “Avrhaham begot Yitzchok.” That is what is written here “Abraham begot Isaac, that there is testimony that Avrham begot Isaac.”

The Brisker Rov asks a question on this Rashi. Scoffers (“leitzanim”) generally scoff because they are trying to avoid a mussar haskeil. Scoffers at miracles generally don’t want to contemplate that there is a Master of the Universe. Scoffing is a great mechanism to do this – “That’s just natural, no miracle, no Divine intervention . . .”

Here, however, what were the scoffers trying to accomplish? Sarah Imeinu was 90 years old! That SHE was able to give birth after all this time was at least a great a miracle, if not greater, than Avraham giving birth at 100. (Not to mention Ishmael had been borne 13 years prior.) The birth of Isaac still attests to Hashem’s intervention in the natural order.

Answers the Brisker Rov: the leitzanei ha dor were saying that while Hashem may have intervened in nature, the intervention was totally random. It was not a product of Avraham’s great tsidkus, the miracle actually happened to that well-known rasha Avimelech. Ergo, there is no need for us to try to emulate Avraham and his keeping of the derech Hashem.

As one surveys the J-Blogging world, there are a depressing number of scoffers and “leitzanei ha dor.” Some are of the first type – scoffing at the very notion of a Divine order to the world.

But there are others who know enough to recognize that there is a Master of the Universe. That much they won’t deny. What they deny is that there is anything special about Talmidei Chachamim and Tsaddikim or any need to try to emulate them. “I am just as good, and find just as much Divine favor as, them.” We should remember that this too is a bechinah of “leitzanei ha dor.”

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