Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Should Not Say, 'I Have Made Abram Rich'

My friend asked me a great question, namely, after Abram wins the war of the four kings against the five kings, the King of Sodom says: "Give me the people, and take the goods for yourself." Abram replies:
    כב וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם, אֶל-מֶלֶךְ סְדֹם: הֲרִמֹתִי יָדִי אֶל-יְהוָה אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ. 22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom: 'I have lifted up my hand unto the LORD, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth,

    כג אִם-מִחוּט וְעַד שְׂרוֹךְ-נַעַל, וְאִם-אֶקַּח מִכָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לָךְ; וְלֹא תֹאמַר, אֲנִי הֶעֱשַׁרְתִּי אֶת-אַבְרָם.23 that I will not take a thread nor a shoe-latchet nor aught that is thine, lest thou shouldest say: I have made Abram rich;

    ~Genesis 14: 22-23
Abram's reasoning seems to be that he doesn't wish the king to be able to say "I have made Abram rich."

Yet if this is so, why does Abram not refrain from taking gifts from Pharoah and Avimelech? Before now, he accepted offerings from Pharoah- see Genesis 12:16:

    טז וּלְאַבְרָם הֵיטִיב, בַּעֲבוּרָהּ; וַיְהִי-לוֹ צֹאן-וּבָקָר, וַחֲמֹרִים, וַעֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחֹת, וַאֲתֹנֹת וּגְמַלִּים. 16 And he dealt well with Abram for her sake; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels.
(When he leaves Egypt, this is commented upon in Genesis 13:2- ב וְאַבְרָם, כָּבֵד מְאֹד, בַּמִּקְנֶה, בַּכֶּסֶף וּבַזָּהָב. 2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.)

After the war with the four kings against the five, Abram takes gifts from Avimelech. See Genesis 20:14 -
    וַיִּקַּח אֲבִימֶלֶךְ צֹאן וּבָקָר, וַעֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחֹת, וַיִּתֵּן, לְאַבְרָהָם; וַיָּשֶׁב לוֹ, אֵת שָׂרָה אִשְׁתּוֹ14 And Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and men-servants and women-servants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
Since there is a distinction in Abraham's behavior in these two circumstances, we must analyze it:

1. Perhaps the circumstances of the money being offered differed. One situation was that of battle, in which Abraham would have been given a share of the spoils. This differed from a situation where the king desired to uplift your station because he wished to sleep with the woman he presumes to be your sister. Spoils differ from gifts.

2. Perhaps the King of Sodom was more morally heinous than Pharoah and Avimelech, thus, Abraham did not wish to accept his money specifically. On the one hand, that is hard to argue because Abraham says there is no fear of God in Egypt. On the other hand, neither Egypt nor the land of the Philistines ends up being totally destroyed and overturned. Sedom had created a code of law by which they persecuted others, robbed them, and refused hospitality. Pharoah and Avimelech erred unintentionally, in that they did not know Sarah was Abraham's wife. Thus, perhaps Abraham could accept their money but not that of the King of Sedom's, since the money of the King of Sedom was 'tainted.' (This reminds me of the discussion in the Gemara that a prostitute's pay should not go toward buying sacrifices for the Mikdash, and then the fact that once a heretic suggested that it could go toward creating a privy for the Kohanim, since 'that which comes from filth can go to filth.' It's also similar to the idea that although both the Dor HaMabul and the Dor HaFlaga were bad, God was more merciful toward the Dor HaFlaga because they were kind to one another even though they rebelled against Him. In contrast, the Dor HaMabul stole from one another (chamas) and did not treat one another well.)

3. Perhaps the very character of the King of Sedom differed from that of Abimelech or Pharoah. Abram knew that the King of Sedom would boast and claim that it was he (as opposed to God) who enriched Abram, but perhaps he also knew that Abimelech and Pharoah would not act in such a way.

None of these answers is truly satisfying to me. Do you perhaps have an answer as to the distinction in Abraham's behavior? Why did he not wish the King of Sedom to be able to say he made him rich, but didn't mind if Pharoah or Avimelech said that?

18 comments:

Chana said...

Dana said (via phone): Abram could not accept the gifts from the King of Sedom because from then on that king might claim that everyone in the Jewish people (all of Abram's descendants) were indebted to him/ came about because of him. Thus, it wasn't just Abram at stake, but all of his future children/ the Jews. (It's similar to Ephron's field where Ephron could have given it as a gift but Avraham specifically wanted to buy it so he would be proved as the owner of the field. Otherwise, Ephron might be able to claim that it's not really Avram's.)

In contrast, when it comes to Avimelech/ Pharoah, either:

1. Abraham may have had no choice in the matter. He had asked his wife to say she was his sister so as not to be killed- maybe he accepted the gifts for the same reason.

2. Abraham may have accepted the gifts on behalf of Sarah. They may have been compensation due to the fact that her reputation was ruined in the eyes of others. Thus, the motive was different, so he would accept them.

Malka said...

I remember learning this in grade school. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of what the answer was.
Here's what I found during my lunch break:
http://therelevantparsha.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html
The Maharal of Prague asks this question and presents an interesting theory. Avraham will only accept money if he is confident that it is a fulfillment of God's blessing. God's blessing of wealth may very well come through Pharaoh, but it cannot come through the King of Sodom. The King of Sodom's offer is the result of Avraham's battle with the four kings, which was the result of the capture of Avraham's nephew Lot. It is inconceivable that God's blessings would come through tragedy. This is the Maharal's explanation. (I was expecting the Maharal to say that God's blessings can't come through such an evil character like Bera; moreover, I was surprised to hear that God's blessings cannot come through tragedy.)

The amusing bit is that while I was Googling for an answer, I kept hitting CuriousJew!

endless loop see "loop, endless"
loop, endless see "endless loop"

Yaelle said...

In the Pharoah incident, as already mentioned in the post/comments, Pharoah gave Avraham gifts for Sarah's sake (ba'avurah).

In the Avimelech incident, note how (in the peshat) Avimelech gives Avraham the gifts BEFORE he returns Sarah. It likely wasn't just a case of Avraham not wanting to be killed, but that Avraham couldn't risk offending Avimelech at that point in time, lest Avimelech have a change in heart and, seeing Avraham reject his gifts, refuse to return Sarah to him.

Sdom, on the other hand, had no such personal connection to Avraham. Accepting gifts from him would perhaps indicate that he saved Lot for a reward, which was not the case.

Interestingly, according to some mepharshim, Lot deserved to eventually be saved from the city of Sdom because he kept his mouth shut in Egypt about Sarah being Avraham's wife. Perhaps her safety is the prerequisite for Avraham's reliance on anyone but G-d. Avraham's 10 trials were very much Sarah's; incidents like the famine that brought them to Egypt, the Hagar-related drama and the akeidah directly affected her. Avraham, meanwhile, was constantly placed in situations in which he was forced to balance his relationships with G-d and other human beings.

Yaelle said...

And by "reliance" I rather mean acceptance of materials of sustenance.

Anonymous said...

Now that you've seen a raft of answers, ask yourself-was there a mesorah as to the reason or were each of the answerers taking their "lev shel torah" and reflecting what they guessed was the reason that hkb'h included these seemingly contradictory stories in the torah (or an important lesson in their hierarchy of belief)?

Personally I always saw it as an important lesson in understanding that life is often grey and the answer is rarely a slam dunk and we have to work at understanding what HKB"H wants of us in each situation rather than just assuming we can copy someone else's homework.

BTW avi mori vrabi was named Abraham - your title reminds me of a vort from R' Nissim Alpert ZT"L on why we say shelo asani goy rather than sheasani Yisrael - HKB"H gives us the ability but only we can truly make ourselves (as did avi mori zll"HH)

KT
Joel Rich

yosef said...

The simplest answer, in my opinion, although still not the definitive one necessarily, is that Sodom was explicitly referred to as "raim ve-chataim la-hashem meod" (13:13), and no such appellation was given to Egypt.

I have another answer also, although it's based on a completely different reading of the Malkitzedek story that is interesting and fits well with the words, but probably not the pshat. You can ask me about it if you are interested.

ari said...

I do not think that Avraham was bothered by someone taking credit for making him rich. He was bothered, rather, by someone falsely taking that credit. Recall that Avraham was already very rich with the gifts from Pharaoh and Avimelech and that they were legitimately responsible for Avraham's wealth. It is possible, therefore, that the spoils of war would not have significantly increased his wealth to the point where the King of Sodom could legitimately say, " I have made Avraham rich."

I think that Avraham was concerned lest the King of Sodom take credit for all of his previously obtained wealth as well and lest he should become the object of someone's false boasting

Tobie said...

The way that the King of Sodom is talking, it is possible that he is being somehow benevolent or exceptionally jealous- perhaps generally hired soldiers would get some set rate, rather than all the rescued spoils. The kings, on the other hand, are just paying a bride price which seems to have been the thing to do- practically mandatory- regardless of the fact that they didn't (and couldn't) get the bride in the end. So I think that Avraham isn't taking favors, but the bride money isn't a favor.

Also, the scope of the gifts may be different- a bride-price and all of the property of five cities are going to have vastly different effects in terms of making you rich.

But I like the answer that Ari gave as well.

Shalom said...

Let's take a look at the whole tale:

יז)  ויצא מלך-סדם, לקראתו, אחרי שובו מהכות את-כדרלעמר, ואת-המלכים אשר אתו--אל-עמק שוה, הוא עמק המלך. (יח) ומלכי-צדק מלך שלם, הוציא לחם ויין; והוא כהן, לאל עליון. (יט) ויברכהו, ויאמר: ברוך אברם לאל עליון, קנה שמים וארץ. (כ) וברוך אל עליון, אשר-מגן צריך בידך; ויתן-לו מעשר, מכל. (כא) ויאמר מלך-סדם, אל-אברם: תן-לי הנפש, והרכש קח-לך. (כב) ויאמר אברם, אל-מלך סדם: הרמתי ידי אל-יהוה אל עליון, קנה שמים וארץ. (כג) אם-מחוט ועד שרוך-נעל, ואם-אקח מכל-אשר-לך; ולא תאמר, אני העשרתי את-אברם

I would say that you shouldn't take the two verses (14:22-23) out of the context of the broader story. Remember, the wealth in question is the wealth of Sodom that had been captured. In the revelry following their great victory, Malki-Zedek blesses Abraham in the name of his god El-Elyon. He then gives Avraham a gift of 1/10 (presumably 1/10 of Malki-Zedek's wealth that Abraham had just saved from Kedarlaomer). Then Melekh Sodom turns to Abraham and tells him to keep all the Sodomite wealth as gift for returning the people. Abraham then turns to both kings, and responds to each in kind. He accepts Malki-Tzedek's gift, since it was given in appropriate proportion (you didn't have to bring in Pharoah or Avimelekh, within the story itself we see the contradiction of Abraham's accepting gifts from one and not the other). At the same time, he rejects Malki-Zedek's blessing by calling upon his God (utilizing the Shem hameforash), and attributing to Him the divine aphorism "El-Elyon qone shamayim wa'arez." He then turns to Melekh Sodom, and rejects his gift due to its clearly inappropriate nature. He cannot rightly accept all of the stolen wealth of Sodom. Certainly, though Melekh Sodom feels the bond of brotherhood in the joyous moment of reunion with his captured townsmen and his wealth, and thus in good-faith gives freely from the wealth to his savior, when the sobering reality of "tomorrow" wakes him from the euphoria of "today" he will regret his foolhardy choice to part with the wealth. Thus (in the best case scenario) he will proclaim to all who will hear, that he indeed made Abraham a wealthy man, as he inwardly mourns the loss of his riches.

Shalom said...

Just to follow up because I know someone will point this out: I know that in 14:22 it says

ויאמר אברם, אל-מלך סדם

and thus Abraham speaks only to Melekh Sodom, and not directly to Malki-Zedek. When I say that he is repsonding to Malki-Zedek I meant that Abraham's use of the expression "El-Elyon qone shamayim wa'arez" is a clear rejection of Malki-Zedek's blessing in the name of his deity. Also, the fact that Abraham speaks only to Melekh Sodom proves that he does accept Malki-Zedek's gift and only rejects Sodom's gift.

Anonymous said...

malbin says תאמר is loshon nikeva, and is going a back on the "hand" that was lifted up to god, so one should not say avrham's own work brought him the wealth.

Chana said...

Anon 9:05,

Really interesting! Question: In that case, though, why wouldn't Avraham just say 'lest people say that I brought the reward upon myself' as opposed to 'you made me rich?' Wouldn't the wording I suggested accord better with the Malbim's point?

Anonymous said...

see it for yourself here http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40102&st=&pgnum=142

Chana said...

Anon 9:05/ 9:18,

I looked at the Malbim inside (followed your link.) Thank you, Anonymous, my friend... Here's the thing: his idea is a bit of a stretch, no? I mean, where else do you see hands "talking" to people? "Lest my hand should say 'I made you rich'"- it doesn't seem like the most logical explanation. I mean, even where you have that idea in Deut 8:17, the verse is: 'יז וְאָמַרְתָּ, בִּלְבָבֶךָ: כֹּחִי וְעֹצֶם יָדִי, עָשָׂה לִי אֶת-הַחַיִל הַזֶּה. 17 and thou say in thy heart: 'My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth.' It's still YOU saying it in your heart, not your hand talking to you. Also, תֹאמַר is also for the pronoun ATA= You, so why would it have to be nekeva? Nonetheless, very interesting and thanks for pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

"Tomar" applies to the 3fs pronoun (Hee) as well, Chana. Whether or not hands talk, the imperfect forms for 2ms and 3fs are the same ;-)

-Y

ari said...

I imagine that refusing a gift can be insulting, and so Abram, even had he wanted to, could not refuse the gifts of pharaoh and avimelech without insulting them and possibly putting himself in harms way. On the other hand, in the case of the King of Sodom, it is not gifts that he is refusing, and so he is not insulting the King of Sodom. (even if it is insulting, Abram has just proven himself to be militarily superior and is in no danger) This doesn't really explain why Abram doesn't want others to take credit for his wealth, or if he minds pharaoh/avimelech taking credit, but it does show that the two cases are dissimilar.

Anonymous said...

Pharoh And Avimelech wronged Avram (Sara) and gifted an apology.
King Sedom did not wrong him but rather owed him big.
So the money was meant as a reward, which Avram refused of course.
Malki-Tzedek was just a host as Rashi says he offered Avram a victor's feast and as the 'Kohen lekayl elyon' Avram tithed to him the gifts received from his previous adventures.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if God disapproved of Pharaoh and Avimelech because they ruled kingdoms where it sounds like it was commonplace that they would kill a man just to get his wife if the wife was pretty. If that is the case they were evil man that I'm going to assume God disapproved of because of how hard God fought against them both when they wronged Abraham by putting him in the situation of either dying or telling a half truth about his wife to escape death.

Proverbs 13:12 says
A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous.

That being the case God disapproved of the Pharaoh and Avimelech but we don't see that the king of Sodom did anything bad against Abraham or Lot. We later only see the town's people acting badly against Lot never the king of Sodom. (I do realize the King of Sodom most likely died in God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah but the king didn’t seem to wrong Abraham directly).
That being the case God wanted the wicked man’s money that wronged Abraham directly to be transferred to Abraham. But the king of Sodom had not done anything where God wanted his wealth transferred to Abraham.

As much as we can all agree that we would never do to our wives what Abraham did to his wife Sarah. I don't see anywhere in the Bible where God actually disagreed with the choice Abraham made. The fact that Abraham did the same thing twice, God never rebuked him, blessed him financially and fought for him in both situations make me think it was what God wanted Abraham to do.