Parshas Lech Lecha

“What You See is Not Always What You Get!”


“And he will be a wild man; his hand in everything, and everyone’s hand against him.…” (Bereishis 16:12)

In the middle of the night, two travelers were caught in a terrible snowstorm. Luckily, they noticed the light of an inn down the road. They knocked on the door of the inn. The innkeeper had gone to bed and did not want to be bothered with them. Finally, he agreed to let them in. He showed them a small, cold room where they could stay for the night. A short while later, there was another knock on the door. It was a famous Chasidic Rebbe who was also stuck in the snow. The innkeeper ran downstairs, happily opening the door for the Rebbe. He seated the Rebbe at a warm table and gave him hot tea and cake. When the Rebbe got up, he noticed two men in the small cold room. He immediately recognized that one of them was the gadol hador (the great rabbi and leader of the generation), Rabbi Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik. The innkeeper felt awful at the way he treated this great rabbi. “I am sorry. I did not know who you were.” (based on Magid Stories for Children by Chaviva Pfeiffer)

When the innkeeper had first seen the gadol hador, he thought he was just a regular person.

 Our matriarch, Sarah, was unable to conceive for a long time. She gave her maidservant, Hagar, to Avraham, as a wife. She hoped that act would help her merit to have her own child (Rashi 16:2). Hagar conceived immediately. As a result, Hagar began to act with disrespect to Sarah. Hagar felt that Sarah was not truly as righteous as she appeared to be. After all, Sarah had not conceived whereas Hagar had conceived right away. In response to Hagar’s disrespectful behavior, Sarah treated her more strictly. Hagar ran away to the desert. She was visited by an angel of Hashem who told her to return to Sarah. The angel told Hagar that she would have a child who will be “a wild man”. He will steal from everyone and everyone will hate him (Rashi 16:12).

The angel told Hagar good news at a time when she felt bad. Why did the angel add that Hagar’s son will be unrefined, criminal, and hated by all? This is not the type of news a person would be happy to hear, especially when they are feeling bad.

The Zera Shimshon (as quoted in Zera Shimshon by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer) quotes the Shach who explains that Sarah’s inability to have children led to the situation in which Avraham married Hagar and had a child from her. That child, Yishmael, became the recipient of any impurity remaining in Avrohom that had come from his father Terach! When Sarah would finally give birth to her own child, her child would be free of any impurities and spiritual blemishes.

In effect, this is what the angel was telling Hagar. He did not want to cause her pain. Rather, he was telling her that she erred in assuming that Sarah was not righteous. Sarah was truly righteous and that is the reason that she did not give birth before Hagar. Hagar had to give birth first so that her son would receive all the impurities. That being the case, the angel was telling Hagar to return to Sarah and revert to treating her with the reverence that she used to give her.

We often evaluate others just by looking at them. We may think that the person we are viewing can not possibly be a great person; not when he looks like that or is dressed like that. How wrong we are!! Klal Yisroel has inherent greatness and every single member of Klal Yisroel can be great. The person that we thought was not so special, may be exceptionally kind, do much chesed or show great respect to his elderly parents. Perhaps he has even overcome great challenges in his life, challenges that we ourselves would have failed.

“Do not judge a book by its cover.”  Do not be fooled by someone’s external appearance.

A person can look like a “nobody” but can actually be great.