Rashi brings the Medrash on the first passuk of this parsha to explain what seems superfluous that Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak, for immediately prior to this it already states אלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם? The Medrash answers that the cynics of the generation spread the rumor that Yitzchak was fathered by Avimelech during the stay that Sara was taken as a captive to the royal palace. All these years that Sara was married to Avraham she never became pregnant. Now when she leaves Avimelech’s presence she becomes pregnant. It is an obvious deduction that Avimelech therefore fathered her child not Avraham.
To avoid such a damaging distortion to the lineage of Klal Yisrael, Hashem performed a miracle to make the features of Yitzchak to mirror exactly those of Avraham. In this manner Hashem was able to dispel the slightest allegation that Avraham might not be Yitzchak’s true father. To affirm the lineage of Yitzchak beyond any questionable doubt, the Torah says that Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak thereby conveying that the countenance of Yitzchak was irrefutable testimony that Avraham and not Avimelech, was the real father.
However, this interpretation of the Medrash seems to contradict another interpretation of Chazal concerning the creation of Adam. The passuk says (Bereishis 1,26) נעשה אדם Let usmake man. The Malachim asked Hashem that if He would write in His Torah the term us, it might lead to blasphemy since the cynics will claim that it is indicative of two Deities. Hashem answered them that as far as He is concerned he really doesn’t care of the cynics commentaries. Whoever wants to make a mistake and veer from the correct interpretation let him do so and I will not stop him.
The Biyala Rebbe ztl answers that Chazal tell us that Hashem worries more about the Tzadikim’s kovod than his own (Bereishis Rabba 39,12). Right here we find a proof verifying this fundamental. Hashem was not worried about the cynics against Him, yet concerning the rumor that the cynics spread against Avraham, He even performed a miracle to falsify their propaganda.
This interpretation of the Biyala Rebbe sends to us a very important message Bain Adam Lechavairo. We are well aware of Rabbe Akiva’s dictum of ואהבת לרעך כמוך. Fewer of us are knowledgeable of Ben Azzai’s statement which is even more demanding than Rabbe Akiva’s and that is כי בצלם אלקים עשה את האדם that Man is created in the image of Hashem. The Sefer Mitzvos Katan explains this to mean that even if a person is not makpid and exacting for his own behalf, when another person who was created in the Tzelem Elokim is in question, he must be more generous. The Tzelem Elokim deserves the best. But if this is the case, then why is the benefactor different than anyone else? He too is a royalty and a Tzelem Elokim and therefore he himself should go the extra mile even if he is not so makpid?
I would therefore like to suggest another interpretation to Ben Azzai’s fundamental. Since Man is created in the Tzelem Elokim, he must imitate Hashem’s middos. One fulfills the mitzvah of Devaikus to Hashem by cleaving to His middos. We have shown above that one of the middos of Hashem is that even though He is not makpid on His kovod, nevertheless, for someone else’s kovodHe is makpid. We therefore fulfill the mitzvah ofוהלכת בדרכיו when we treat our spouse or friend better than we would treat ourselves.
This is the teaching of Ben Azzai when he claims that Man was created in Tzeleim Elokim. It doesn’t mean that one should look at the person you want to benefit as a Tzelem Elokim and treat him thus. It means one should look at himself as aTzelem Elokim which creates for him an obligation to follow in His ways, one of which is to benefit another Yid even though for yourself you would not do the same.
According to Rabbe Akiva my obligation to my fellow man stops when I treat him like myself. I love Sushi therefore I can feed him Sushi for supper. I enjoy pizza so it is bekovidik to serve him pizza as well. I don’t like mustard with my hot dog so I am not obligated to serve it for you either. Ben Azzai added to Rabbe Akivah that since you must emulate Hashem’s middos, you must give him beyond what you would give yourself.
I had a chavrusa who is a talmid chacham and one evening he had to babysit and we learned together at his house. He offered me some coffee and I accepted. He then goes to the pantry and presents me with a small unopened coffee jar saying “Enjoy, Help yourself”. I felt a slight uncomfortable feeling overtaking me little as I stared at this new jar, and inquired if he had an already opened jar. He opened the doors of his pantry widely enough for me to see that on the third shelf there were at least twenty small size jars of unopened coffee neatly lined up next to each other. My first remark was pure curiosity “Isn’t it cheaper to buy two big jars than twenty small ones?” He just smiled and said “Every coffee maivin knows that the first spoon of coffee taken from a freshly opened coffee jar right after the paper lid is pulled off, is just heavenly. The swish sound of the cover being removed, the sharp aroma bursting into one’s nostrils, and the fresh taste, add to make that cup of coffee other worldly. Every guest who comes into my house is offered a cup of coffee from a newly opened jar so he can savor this coffee experience.”
I just smiled and exclaimed “Wow! What achiddush in Hachnasas Orchim. Tell me, if you are such a maivin what do you do to have such an experience? One jar every morning can come out to be some hefty cup of coffee.” My friend just shrugged his head and sheepishly said “For me it’s not nogaiah. I haven’t touched a cup of coffee for over ten years”.