Kli Chemdah - Parshas Noach

(11,28) Did Haran die by sanctifying the name of Hashem?

(11,28) “And Haran died in the presence of his father Terach in the land of his birth, in Ur Kasdim.”

Rashi here brings the Midrash which says that Haran died on account of his father, Terach, who complained to Nimrod about his son Avrohom for crushing his idols, and as a result Avrohom was thrown into a fiery furnace. Haran said to himself “If Avrohom is victorious, then I am on his side, and if Nimrod is victorious, then I am on his side”. When Avrohom was saved from the furnace they asked Haran on whose side he was, and he replied that he was on the side of Avrohom. They threw him into the fiery furnace, and he was burned (and died). This is the meaning of the posuk, “Haran died in the presence of his father…in Ur Kasdim” - in the fire of Kasdim.

But we need to understand why Haran was burned since he also gave over his life for the sanctification of Hashem’s name. And even though he was not as strong in his convictions as Avrohom, what of it? Avrohom had reached his high level through his longtime investigations, but Haran did not have other signs sufficient to bring him to the oneness of Hashem except the saving of Avrohom, and from that moment he was of one mind with Avrohom, and if so, why was he burned?

But the truth it seems is like my son Rav Elazar Yehudah wrote, that the Midrash comments on the posuk in Yeshayohu 29:22 “Therefore, thus said Hashem to the House of Ya’akov, who redeemed Avrohom” - in the merit of Ya’akov, Avrohom was saved from the fiery furnace. The various commentaries were astonished by this Midrash - do you think that Avrohom Avinu needed to be saved by Ya’akov? However, the Holy Rabbi Meir from Varki said that there would have been derision in the world concerning Avrohom deliverence from the fiery furnace, if not for the necessity that he needed to continue living in order to give birth to Ya’akov, and to bring out from him the nation of Yisrael.

The explanation of his holy words is that we see from Rabbi Akiva that all his days he was distressed about when he would have the opportunity to fulfil the posuk in the Shema which says that one should love Hashem with all his soul, because this is the ultimate ambition of a person, to give over his life for the sanctification of Hashem’s name. If so, since Avrohom merited this, to give over his life for the sanctification of Hashem’s name, why was he saved? This can only be for one of two reasons: either to sanctify the name of Hashem in public, in order that everyone will know that Hashem is one and His name is one, or because he needed to continue to live in order to have children.

Now, in our case, since Haran was burned by the fire even though he had stated that he believed in Hashem like Avrohom, there was not a complete sanctification of Hashem’s name. Therefore, it is understandable that Avrohom’s deliverance from the furnace would have been ridiculed, if not for the second reason that he needed to live because he was the founder of the Yisrael, His treasured people. This is clear and correct.

But Haran was burned because there was no need for Haran to live longer, because Lot from whom came the kingdom of the House of Dovid had already been born. Therefore, for him it was good not to be saved, and so he died for the sanctification of Hashem’s name. These are the words of my son.

With this we can explain the words of Chazal which are brought by Rashi in parshas Lech Lecha on the posuk 14:10 “and the valley of Siddim was composed of many pits of clay”, that the clay was kneaded there, and a miracle was wrought for the King of Sodom, that he escaped from there. Because some of the nations did not believe that Avrohom had been saved from Ur Kasdim, from the fiery furnace, but since this one escaped from the clay, they believed in Avrohom rectroactively.

Now, the Ramban was amazed how this could have caused a strengthening in belief in Avrohom - on the contrary, since they saw that the King of Sodom, who worshipped idols, was also saved, what proof was there to believe in Avrohom. He answered that the saving of the King of Sodom was done by Avrohom, who went to the pit and gazed at it, and through this he was saved. And so now they had good cause to believe that if this one was saved for the honour of Avrohom, all the more so was Avrohom himself certainly saved from the fiery furnace.

However, to my mind the words of Chazal need investigation, because the incident of Ur Kasdim took place close to this time, and was well known by everybody, so how was it possible that they did not all believe? And it is not acceptable to say that they thought that the whole affair was a lie.

Therefore, it seems to me that the explanation is that there were some from the nations of the world who did not believe that Avrohom had been saved by a miracle because he gave his life in order to sanctify the name of Hashem, because Haran proves otherwise, since he also gave over his life and even so he was burned. Therefore they said that Avrohom was saved through magic which prevented the fire having an effect on him, or some other mechanism, but it was not a heavenly miracle. And the reason why he did not save Haran was because he was not able to save him, and so Haran was burned.

However, when they saw now that Avrohom with a mere glance at the pit saved the King of Sodom, if so, he certainly could have saved Haran, and so perforce Haran was burned because indeed this is the ultimate deed to give over one’s life for the sanctification of Hashem’s name, and therefore Avrohom did not wish to save him at all. And if so, it was clear that he also had not wanted to save himself, and he had certainly given himself over to die with a complete heart to sanctify Hashem’s name, and he was only saved through a miracle from Heaven because of the generations that were destined to energe from him. This is the explanation of why they believed in Avrohom rectroactively, and it seems to me to be very correct.

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