Vayera: A Forbidden Pact: The Precedent

There is a particular Rashbam in “Parshat Vayira” which Rabbi Kahane brought down constantly. The Rashbam asks: Why is the story of the pact between Avraham and Avimelech adjacent to the story of “Akeidat Yitzchak” which follows immediately thereafter, and opens with the words, “And it came to pass after these things…” – words that the sages tell us come to express a real connection between these two events?

The Rashbam gives the following answer: “After the pact that Avraham made with Avimelech, (a pact) with Avraham’s grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, he gave him seven lambs. And the Almighty became enraged by this, for behold, the land of the Philistines had been given toAvraham … and the Almighty commanded them, ‘thou shalt not allow a soul to live’. Therefore, ‘Hashem tested Avraham’ – to teach him a lesson… That is, you were proud of the son I gave you, and made a pact between your sons and their sons (of the Philistines)? – go now and offer him as a sacrifice, and find out how useful your pacts are!”

In other words, the Rashbam explains that this pact, including the very impressive ceremony of the seven lambs, was a sin. And why? Because the content of the pact was, “now therefore swear to me here by G-d that you will not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son”. In other words, this was a “not to attack” pact between the offspring of Avraham and the offspring of Avimelech. And what does an agreement “not to attack” mean here? It means that the offspring of Avraham will not be able to attack and conquer the land of the Philistines, which is a part of the land of Israel. By making such a commitment, Avraham is relinquishing a part of Eretz Yisrael! (according to Trachtate Sota, (9-10), only after the Philistines broke the original treaty, Israel was able to fight them and take their land from them.)

Let us understand what the Rashbam is saying here. After all, the Jewish People had not yet even come into the world, and so obviously, the Land of Israel was not in their hands. And what did Avraham do? In order to avoid conflict with the notoriously unpredictable Avimelech, Avraham made an agreement with him. What is the big deal! Yet, Avraham is chastised nonetheless: You should have taken into account that such an agreement would tie the hands of your children, preventing them from conquering the land the G-d promised to your seed in the future!

If so, what can one say when the issue under discussion is not an agreement which forbids us to conquer the land of some goy which is presently under his control, (like the agreement with ‘Jordan’), but rather what is under discussion is an agreement to turn over parts of the land of Israel which G-d gave us and is already under our control?! Can there be a Hillul Hashem greater than this?

Let us go another step further. After all, the principle we have discussed here is, thank G-d, close to the hearts of many Jews who understand the absurdity and the sin in the giving up of parts of Israel to our enemy. But what other sorts of pacts or agreements with a gentile, that does not include concessions? We have become used to thinking that this is a wonderful thing! What huge efforts our foreign ministry makes in order to establish ties with the most obscure of countries. What great pleasure is derived when another “Zimbabwe” or “Honolulu” is ready to establish diplomatic relations with Israel…

Is it so simple that such a thing is permitted? Here is what the sages think about it in “Eliyahu Raba”, chapter seven: “Man must remember in his heart that he must not make partnerships with a goy, and not to make a pact with him, as we found with Avraham Avenu, who made a partnership (with Avimelech) … and from here they said: there is not a nation in the world which does not enslave and torture Israel more than a few hundred years, and it is all because Avraham made a pact with a goy. From here it was said: whoever makes a partnership with a goy…” See in it’s entirety. The above Rashbam also brings down Midrash Tehilim, which mentions several tragedies which struck us, because of the seven lambs that Avraham gave to Avimelech: Israel lost seven wars, seven righteous Jews were killed, seven tabernacles were destroyed, and other tragic events.

Let us accept upon ourselves this national isolation, not as some evil decree, but rather as Rabbi Kahane put it at the end of his book, “On the Emunah, and on the Giula”: “A nation that shall dwell alone – is it a curse? On the contrary! Inherent in our isolation is the salvation of the Jew and the sanctification of his G-d.”

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