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By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
November 15, 2017

Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon commonly known in the West as Alexander the Great King of Macedon (336–323 B.C.E.), was the most successful military commander of ancient history, conquering most of the known world before his death.

Our Sages relate the story of how Alexander The Great was about to conquer the land of Israel. Incited by enemies of the Sages, Alexander intended to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. In the past, wherever he had trodden he made sure to put a massive statue of himself in the holiest place of the land. His intention was clear; all should know about and respect him.

As he arrived closer to Yerushalayim, the sages sent out a delegation headed by Shimon Hatsadik to meet him.

How were they going to defend against such a mighty warrior, and how were they going to ensure that no idols be left in the Holiest Place – the Bet Hamikdash.

They approached the mighty warrior and their answer was astounding.

Let’s take a closer look at our Parsha first.

VeEleh Toldot Yitschak Ben Avraham, Avraham Holid et Yitschak –

These are the generations of Yitschak the son of Avraham, Avraham bore Yitschak.

Rashi asks why there seems to be a superfluous repetition here. If Yitschak is the son of Avraham, of course Avraham was his father?

Rashi explains that the Letsaney Hador (jokers/slanderers of the generations) saw how Sarah wasn’t able to have children for many years.

Suddenly she was taken by Avimelech and then shortly after at the age of 90 she had a child.

Word got around that the real reason she was able to have a child was perhaps because it was to do with Avimelech?

Of course this had nothing to do with Avimelech and Hashem clarified the matter through a miracle that Yitschak would look exactly like Avraham.

Thus the torah stresses it was Avraham and not Avimelechs son.

There is an even deeper level of understanding.

In the olden days if someone wished to refer to someone else, they wouldn’t ask him for his surname – that never existed.

How would they refer to him?

They would say – whose son are you?

We can see this from when Eliezer met Rivka he asked her – Bat Mi At – whose daughter are you?

A person was known as the son or daughter of so and so.

For example when people would hear that a persons name was Shimon Ben Yakov then people would know who he really was.

Avraham was an exception.

He was known as Avraham HaIvri.

Why? Because he came from the other side of the river – he came from Mesopotamia. Furthermore he believed in One G-d whereas the rest of the world worshiped idols. He was an Ivri –on the other side of the world to others.

He wasn’t known as Avraham Ben Terach – Avraham the son of Terach because he was not proud of his father. His father was the top priest of Avoda Zarah.

Thus his status was Ivri.

Later on in life, this status of Ivri, took a change. Avraham stopped being known only as Avraham HaIvri and took on a new status.

When Yitschak was born – Avraham would now be known as “Avraham the father of Yitschak”. That is to say, Yitschak was such a Tsadik that Avraham was proud of being called his father – Avraham Holid Et Yitschak.

The Talmud (Yuma 69a) ascribes righteousness to Alexander the Great.

Incited by enemies of the Sages, Alexander intended to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. On the way, he was approached by R’ Shimon HaTzadik who headed a delegation of rabbis. When Alexander saw him, he got off his horse and bowed on the ground at his feet. The enemies of the Sages questioned why “The Great” should prostrate before the lowly. He replied that at the head of all his conquests he was led by the image of a righteous man, and this image was the countenance of non other than R’ Shimon. The rabbis asked Alexander, “Is it conceivable that your enemies should mislead you into destroying the House in which prayers for your success and for that of your kingdom are offered?” At which point Alexander recalled his soldiers and turned over the enemies of the Sages to the Jews.

Yet there was still the predicament of the statue of Alexander being placed in the Holy Temple.

When the sages were faced with the biggest problem in their times, they approached Alexander and made him an offer.

Putting the statue is a great honour, they told Alexander, but we have something even better than a statue.

We can offer you that every Jewish child that is born this year will be called Alexander after you!

And so it was he accepted and whereas nowadays the statues of the greatest warrior are far and few, his name lives on (even in our community) forever.

Our Children are our future. Let us invest and take pride in them and may they be an ever lasting merit to us – their parents and ancestors forever.

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