The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Our Ability to Learn

"ומלכי־צדק מלך שלם הוציא לכם ויין והוא כהן לקל עליון"

"Malchizedek, King of Shalem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of G-d the Most High"
[יח - יד ]

According רשי really מלכי־צדק is giving the bread and wine to אברהם to show that he understood that he was justified in killing his ancestors – a conciliatory gesture. However there is another opinion said in the name of R’Meir of Premishlan that states that this meeting was actually an exchange of wisdom.

At first this thought seems quite difficult to understand; where is the exchange shown in the Pasuk, it doesn’t seem to fit it.

A look at a Pasuk in Pirkei Avot helps to start explaining this idea of R’Meir:

"איזהו חכם? הלומד מכל אדם"

This Pasuk is telling us that a truly wise person is able to derive from every person he meets a lesson relevant to his own life. Someone who is able to be on the correct level, to be humble enough to know that he is not all-knowing and that others can teach him many important lessons.

Sefer Mishlei even goes further than this and says that not only from man should he be in-spired but from the natural world as well. For surely the very essence of חכמה is from Hashem; the share which man is allotted is only a faint echo emanating from the divine חכמה . It is therefore possible to learn from everything because all creation has that Divine echo.

However the question still stands – it may be that אברהם was gaining some insight from this meeting but why is it called an exchange?

The Gemara tells us that Malchizedek was actually Shem, the son of Noach (Nedarim 32). Of Yeshivat Shem and Eber, where they learned the divine teachings transmitted by Adam. This is the very same Yeshiva where Yaakov studied for a fourteen year period. אברהם was known for his extraordinary service to Hashem – exemplified by his unparalleled Hachnasat Orchim. When these two tzaddikim met, each tried to glean something from the other, אברהם sought to acquire Torah teachings from Shem, and Shem tried to learn about the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim.

The Pasuk tries to tell us that ‘Malchizedek, king of Shalem, took forth bread and wine’ – meaning that he learned from אברהם the mitzvah of providing bread and wine to travellers in order to properly fulfil the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim. And אברהם took from him the teaching of being a priest to Hashem – of serving Hashem through Torah.

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