To Dedicate Please Contact: Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Avram said to the king of Sedom: I have raised up my hand to Hashem, G-d the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth. If so much as a thread or a shoe strap; or if I shall take from anything that is your so you shall not say “It is I who made Avram rich” (Bereishis 14:22, 23).
In this week’s parsha we learn how Avram rescued Lot and the king of Sedom. In the aftermath of this event, the king of Sedom offered Avram the spoils of war. Avram refused to accept anything so that no one say it was the king of Sedom who made Avram wealthy and not Hashem. The words Avram used to express his determination not to accept anything were a “thread” and a “shoe strap.”
The Midrash tells us that in reward for this statement Avram’s descendents were given seven mitzvos that relate to threads and shoe straps. In reward for the mention of a “thread” the Midrash lists: 1) the thread of techeiles that is attached to the tzizis. 2) The covering of the mishkan that was made from threads of techeiles and argaman. 3) The thread-thin line that was painted in the center of the altar to divide it into two parts so that blood that is supposed to be applied to the upper half not mistakenly be applied to the lower half and vice versa.
In reward for the mention of a “shoe strap” the Midrash lists: 4) the shoe that the yevamah removes from the foot of her brother-in-law when chalitzah is performed. 5) The hides of the tachash that were used to cover mishkan. Parenthetically we note that the relation between the hides of the tachash and the “shoe strap” comes from a posuk (Yechezkel 16:10) that tells us that the leftover hides of tachash were used by the Jewish people in the desert to make shoes. 6) The mitzvah of going up to Yerushalayim on the three festivals which is described in the posuk with the word shoe, “How beautiful are your steps in shoes, daughter of nobility” (Shir Hashirim 6:2). There is another Midrash that adds 7) the strap of the tefillin. Here the connection is from the word strap that connects the strap of the shoe to the strap of teffilin.
What is the significance of the Midrash listing specifically these seven items?
We may suggest that the common denominator of all items listed is that they require a specific color. 1) The techeiles thread of the tzizis is blue. 2) The color of the threads that covered the mishkan were blue and purple. 3) The thread-thin line that divided the altar was red. 4) The shoe that was used in the chalitzah ceremony should be black with white straps as recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’ezer 169:18). 5) The hides of the tachash were multicolored. Indeed, the multiplicity of color is what gave this creature its unique beauty. 6) With regard to traveling to Yerushalayim for the festivals in shoes, we note that the custom of the Jewish people in ancient times was to wear black shoes with white straps. Tosofos (Bava Kama 49b) explains that the way one can tell the difference between a Jew and gentile was by the color of one’s shoes and shoe straps. 7) Finally, we have a tradition dating back to the time that Moshe received the Torah on Har Sinai that the strap of the tefillin must be completely black.
The reason why different items appear to have different colors is because of the varying degree of light they absorb. An object that appears black absorbs all the rays of light. An item that appears white does not absorb anything. Instead, it reflects all rays of light. This phenomenon can be proven by observing that dark items left in the sun are considerably warmer than their lighter-color counterparts, due to the greater degree of absorption.
Thus different colors represent varying degrees of absorption. With regard to mitzvos that require color it can be homiletically explained that color symbolizes the absorption of a unique degree of Hashem’s light when performing that specific Mitzvah.
We may now understand why the Midrash lists these seven items. In reward for Avram’s refusal to accept anything from the king of Sedom so that no one mistake the source of his wealth, Hashem gave his descendents mitzvos that require color. This symbolizes that his descendents would absorb, receive and accept varying degrees of Hashem’s spiritual rays of light.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5765/2004