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Friday, November 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeira

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'ilui nishmas my brother Efrayim Yechezkel ben Avi Mori Reuven Pinchas whose Yahrtzeit was yesterday, the 18th of Cheshvan.

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.
    After Avimelech mistakenly takes Sarah from Avraham, HaShem comes to him in a dream at night and tells him that he will die for his sin. Avimelech then proceeds to plead his innocence after which HaShem responds and lets him off the hook. The response begins (20:6) "Elokim said to him in the dream..." From pasuk 3 we are already aware that HaShem was speaking to Avimelech "bachalom halaylah," in a dream of the night. Why is it necessary to repeat this point?
    We have before discussed the many differences in the conduct of Avimelech as opposed to Par'oah in just about the same circumstance. (See  In addition to those points, Paroah was not even given the honour of a visit or warning from God, presumably because he simply was not worthy of such a revalation. Avimelech, on the contrary, did merit that visit. Yet, we do not ever see Avimelech referred to as a prophet. Wouldn't this dream constitute prophecy.
    I therefore suggest, although without any textual source to support this theory, that true prophecy consists not only of a message from HaShem but the ability to converse with Him in the context of that prophecy. What happened here is that Avimelech actually awoke after receiving the message from HaShem in his dream. His words, quoted in the pasuk, were exclamations uttered while awake. He then went back to sleep and HaShem  answered him in yet another dream. Indeed, when HaShem comes to Bil'am in his dream (Bemidbar 22:9-12) there is a clear dialog, although I suppose it is not clear that that was even a dream. Nevertheless, due to this nuance, Avimelech is not considered a navi.
    I normally don't like making shtikles too long. However, in preparing the above I stumbled upon a very interesting observation which I feel must be shared. In an old shtikle on parshas Shofetim ( we discussed the Rambam's view (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 10:4) that only a prophecy for the good which does not come true is indicative of a navi sheker but not a prophecy for the bad. The commentaries struggle to find a source for this. We had previously discussed R' Chaim Kunyevsky's obscure source for this assertion of the Rambam. However, is the above episode not the clearest source you could find. Not only is it a prophecy, it is the direct word of God, which ultimately is not fulfilled. HaShem told Avimelech, "You will die" and in the end, he did not. To me, this seems the most blatant evidence that a negative prophecy may be overturned.
Have a good Shabbos.


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