Parshas Chayei Sarah ends with a short account of Yishmael's life and his descendants. The last pasuk, which describes where his descendants resided, is a bit enigmatic. "They dwelled from Chavilah to Shur - which is near Egypt - toward Ashur, over all his brothers nafal" (Bereishis 25:18). Rashi understands that the word "nafal" is not meant to be translated literally "he fell," rather, "he dwelled," and is therefore bothered by the following question.
When the angel informed Hagar that she would bear a child, whom she was to name Yishmael, he added a short sketch of Yishmael's personality. "He will be a wild man, his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand will be against him, and over all his brothers he shall dwell (yishkon)" (ibid. 16:12). The angel was obviously describing what was recorded in this week's parsha that Yishmael dwelled over all his brothers. Accordingly, the Torah should have used the same word in both places. Why in Lech Lecha did the Torah write "yishkon" while in this week's parsha the Torah conveyed the very same message with the word "nafal" (lit. "he fell"). Rashi explains that when Avraham was alive Yishmael dwelled, but after Avraham died, Yishmael fell.
Rav Wolbe (Shiuri Chumash) elaborates that aslong as Avraham was alive, he ensured that Yishmael would maintain a certain level of spirituality. Once he passed away, Yishmael automatically fell because he lost his spiritual support. This concept also explains an incident mentioned earlier in the parsha. Rashi tells us that the constant spiritual blessing found in Sarah's home, manifested by the cloud above her tent, the candle which never extinguished and the bread which never spoiled, ceased after she passed away. When Yitzchok married Rivkah, the blessing returned and Yitzchok "was consoled after his mother." When Sarah passed away, Yitzchok's level of spirituality was affected. When he married a woman of his mother's spiritual caliber, he found solace because he regained his former spiritual status.
A few months after Rav Wolbe passed away, the Bais Hamussar began sending out a weekly Dvar Torah based upon his shmuessin and seforim. The intent was to aid in maintaining the spiritual strides that Rav Wolbe had helped people achieve during his lifetime, and to help them continue to grow, despite the passing of their spiritual guide and support. Over the past ten years the list of those subscribing to the weekly email has grown by more than a thousand, as more and more people wish to grow from the wisdom and guidance of the man who affected our generation positively in so many ways. His name is a household word, and nary a mussar shmuessgoes by where an idea of his is not mentioned.
This week, the Bais Hamussar has reached an amazing milestone as they send out the five hundredth Dvar Torah! As the author of the weekly Dvar Torah since its inception, I would like to thank all our readers, and specifically those who have sent their feedback, for giving me the drive to continue. As I look toward the future, I am debating whether to continue basing the Dvar Torah on the weekly parsha or to possible change to a different topic. I welcome any comments and suggestions.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hashem for His tremendous kindness in all areas of my life and particularly for giving me the ability to disseminate Rav Wolbe's Torah to the masses. In this week's parsha, when Eliezer was informed that Yitzchok would merit having Rivkah as a wife, he bowed to Hashem. Rashi comments that we learn from here that one should thank Hashem for good tidings. Accordingly, how much more so must one thank Hashem if he has not merely received good tidings, but has already been a beneficiary of His great kindness. Thus, I bow my head to Hashem in thanks, and ask Him to continue showering me and all of Klal Yisrael with His blessings, thereby enabling us to focus on our spiritual pursuits and bring Him true nachas ruach!