Hebrew | Francais


> > Archive

Shabbat Parashat Vayeira 5784

Parashat Hashavua: The Danger of Sinful Contemplation

Harav Yosef Carmel

There is a surprising midrash about the background of the test that Avraham underwent with the binding of Yitzchak, which the Torah introduces with the words “It was after these matters” (Bereishit 22:1). The obvious questions are: what were these “matters” and what was their significance? One midrash (Yelamdenu, Bereishit 104) says that Avraham had contemplated negative thoughts about Hashem’s attribute of judgment. Avraham was concerned that because he had been saved from death, he used up his reward and would not have any in the world to come. Consequently, he had to give an oleh sacrifice, which is appropriate for sins of the heart (with the sacrifice being his son).

Does Hashem really punish for sins of thought without a sin in action? The mishna (Nazir 23a) says that if a woman made a vow to make herself a nazir, her husband canceled the vow without telling her, and she violated the terms of nezirut, she is not liable for the punishment. However, the gemara (ad loc.) continues to derive that she still requires atonement because she planned to violate the prohibition. So the conclusion is that for sins of the heart alone there is not punishment, although there is a need for rectification.

Why, then, was Avraham “punished” for his thoughts and did he have to bind his son to an altar? The answer is that a man on the level of Avraham has to pay a price even for only thoughts that are not of the level expected of him.

We will prove this concept of holding great people responsible for thoughts from a story later in Bereishit, a section that was also introduced with the words “It was after these matters.” Like his great grandfather, Yosef was also tested, not with ten different tests, but with the same test, day after day. The wife of Potiphar desired Yosef and repeatedly tried to seduce him. Yosef refused time and again (Bereishit 39:7-10). Yet, a curious pasuk about one of those days, when the house was mainly empty, says that Yosef “came into the house to do his work” (ibid. 11), which Chazal viewed as unusual language. Rabbi Yochanan (in Sota 36b) says that at that point, Yosef joined his master’s wife in planning to sin.

At the end, Yosef overcame his desires and did not sin. However, he paid a heavy price for his thoughts, as after running away from her, she decided to accuse Yosef of attacking her, and as a result, Yosef sat in jail for ten years despite his innocence (Shemot Rabba 7:1). The reason is, again, that a tzaddik has to pay for behavior below his level, which includes by thought. This would not happen to a regular person, if for example, he meant to eat not kosher and it turned out to be kosher (although he would need atonement).

We have substantiated that the righteous must be careful about what they think. All the more so, they need to be careful about what they say!  

Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend


We daven for a complete and speedy refuah for:

Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Ori Leah bat Chaya Temima

Arye Yitzchak ben Geula Miriam

Neta bat Malka

Meira bat Esther
Yerachmiel ben Zlotta Rivka

Together with all cholei Yisrael

Hemdat Yamim is dedicated

to the memory of:

Those who fell in wars

for our homeland


Prof. Yisrael Aharoni z"l

Kislev 14, 5783


Rav Shlomo Merzel z”l
Iyar 10, 5771

 Reuven & Chaya Leah Aberman z"l
Tishrei 9
 ,5776 / Tishrei 20, 5782


Mr. Shmuel & Esther Shemesh z"l

Sivan 17 / Av 20


Mr. Moshe Wasserzug z"l

Tishrei 20 ,5781


R' Eliyahu Carmel z"l

Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8 ,5776


MrsSara Wengrowsky

bat R’ Moshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10 ,5774


Rav Asher & Susan Wasserteil z"l
Kislev 9 / Elul 5780


R' Meir ben

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld z"l


MrsSara Brachfeld z"l

Tevet 16 ,5780


R 'Yaakov ben Abraham & Aisha


Chana bat Yaish & Simcha

Sebbag, z"l


Rav Yisrael Rozen z"l
Cheshvan 13, 5778


Rav Benzion Grossman z"l
Tamuz 23, 5777


R' Abraham & Gita Klein z"l

Iyar 18,  /5779Av 4


Rav Moshe Zvi (Milton) Polin z"l
Tammuz 19, 5778


R' Yitzchak Zev Tarshansky z"l

Adar 28, 5781


Nina Moinester z"l

Nechama Osna bat

Yitzhak Aharon & Doba

Av 30, 5781


Rabbi Dr. Jerry Hochbaum z"l

Adar II 17, 5782


Mrs. Julia Koschitzky z"l

Adar II 18, 5782


Mrs. Leah Meyer z"l

Nisan 27, 5782


Mr. Shmuel & Rivka Brandman z"l

Tevet 16 5783/ Iyar 8, 5781


R' Yitzchak Eliezer ben

Avraham Mordechai Jacobson z"l

Elul 15


George Weinstein z"l

Gershon ben Yehudah Mayer

 a lover of the Jewish Nation Torah and Land


Tamar Lichtenstadt z”l
May her memory be a blessing.

is endowed by
Les z"l  & Ethel Sutker
of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
Louis and Lillian Klein z”l

site by entry.
Eretz Hemdah - Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy. | Terms of Use.