In today’s Chumash, we learn about the Bris Bein Habesarim, the story of Hagar and the birth of Yishmael, and Avram’s mitzvah to get a Bris Milah. At the end of today’s Chumash, Avram gets a new name — Avraham!
Bris Bein Habesarim: Avram didn’t ask for a sign about having children, but he DID want a sign that Hashem would give the Yidden Eretz Yisroel. He wanted to know what zechus the Yidden would have so they could get Eretz Yisroel.
Hashem told Avram that it would be in the zechus of the korbanos that the Yidden will bring. So Hashem asked Avram to bring some animals to remind him of the korbanos: Three cows, three goats, three rams, a turtledove, and a dove.
He told Avram to shecht the animals and cut them in half. He should walk between the halves, like a path, and Hashem will send a fire to go between the halves to show that He is making a promise. This was called the Bris Bein HaBesarim — the promise between the halves.
So Avram did what Hashem told him to do. He didn’t cut the birds in half though, which was a sign that the Yidden will be treated differently than the goyim by Hashem, just like the birds in this Bris are different than the animals.
Vultures (a kind of bird that likes to eat dead animals) tried to eat the pieces of the animals, but Avram wouldn’t let. This was a hint that Hashem will only let Moshiach get rid of all of the mean goyim (who are compared to animals) in the time of the Geulah.
Then Avram got very tired and fell into a deep sleep. He felt very scared. Hashem explained to Avram that he was scared because he was feeling that there would be a Golus for his children, but Hashem would save them! They would come out of Golus with great riches.
Hashem also promised Avram that he would live a good long life, and that his children would serve Hashem. Hashem promised that in the end, the Yidden would come back to Eretz Yisrael.
Then Hashem made the sun set, and it became dark. Hashem made the fire go between the animal pieces, and promised Avram to have the full land of Eretz Yisroel, the way it will be when Moshiach comes.
Avram marries Hagar: Sarai said to Avram that maybe he should also marry Hagar, and maybe then they will have their own child. Avram understood that Sarai was saying a nevuah, and so he did marry her.
Soon after getting married, Hagar found out that she was expecting a baby! But instead of being so happy and grateful, Hagar started thinking that she was better than Sarai, since SHE was going to have a baby, and Sarai was married for so long (10 years) and didn’t have any!
Sarai was very upset, and said to Avram that he should have told Hagar not to talk that way. Because Sarai was upset, Hashem didn’t give Hagar that baby after all.
Hagar runs away: Avram told Sarai to deal with Hagar in the way she thought was right. Since Hagar was really a maid, Sarai gave her lots of hard work. Hagar was very upset and ran away to the desert.
A malach from Hashem came and spoke to Hagar, who was sitting by a wellspring of water. She wasn’t scared, because she was used to seeing malachim from Avram’s house. He asked her where she was going. Hagar answered that she was running away from Sarai.
A second malach told her to go back home, even though Sarai was in charge of her.
A third malach promised her that she would have many people coming from her and her children.
A fourth malach told her she would soon have a baby boy, and she should call him Yishmael, since Hashem heard (shama) her suffering. Yishmael would be wild and fighting with everyone, but his children would be friends with each other and they would live together.
Hagar thanked Hashem for being so nice to her. She realized that she didn’t deserve to see malachim, and was happy Hashem sent a malach to her. This showed that she did teshuva.
The well where the malach found Hagar is called “Be’er Lachai Ro’i” — the place where the living malach appeared.
Yishmael is born: Hagar soon had a baby boy. Even though she didn’t tell Avram what the malach said, he had Ruach Hakodesh and called him Yishmael!
Avram is told to have a bris: 13 years later, in Nisan, when Avram was 99 years old, Hashem told Avram that he would give him a new mitzvah — Bris Milah. Avram was worried that people wouldn’t want to be Jewish if they would have that mitzvah, but Hashem told Avram not to worry.
Through having a bris, Avram would become tomim — whole and perfect. Hashem promised Avram a lot of brachos if he would have a bris. He also gave him a new name — Avraham, with a Hey. This means “Father of many nations.”