The details of Avraham Avinu's military magnificence are never discussed much because, as Rav Miller notes, "they are unimportant" (which shows you Torah priorities right there).
But he was an excellent general & military strategist. He came home to a nation of adoring fans with all he won from his victories.
Yet whenever we speak of Avraham Avinu, it's always about his spiritual victories—because the real gibur (hero) is the one who conquers his yetzer hara.
How Shem Lost the Kehunah
If you'd like more insights into Shem's personality & accomplishments, you'll find them on pages 4-6.
Anyway, the original plan for the Kahunah (Priesthood) was for Shem to receive it, and thus all Shem's descendants (Nedarim 32b).
That's very interesting, if you think about it.
From the descendants defined by Sefer Yechusin, Shalshelet HaKabbalah, and Me'am Lo'ez (HERE & HERE), this means that not only the Jews would be kohanim, but also the Arabs, the Indians, the Persians, the Far East Asians, the Armenians, and some Turks.
And initially, Shem received it. He also received the title Malkitzedek (king of justice) and served as priest to Hashem.
Shem (as Malkitzedek) went out to greet Avraham Avinu on his return.
Shem blessed Avraham Avinu with beautiful blessings.
In the first blessing, Shem said, "Blessed is Avraham to the God on High..."
So impressed by Avraham Avinu's accomplishments, both the spiritual & the worldly, Shem lost himself & blessed Avraham Avinu before Hashem.
He mentioned Avraham Avinu before he mentioned Hashem.
It sounds so strange. It doesn't even sound like Shem did anything wrong!
Yet that lost the Kahunah for Shem as a whole.
Here's Rav Miller to explain it (page 7):
A man who forgets about the Keil Elyon, the Uppermost Power, even if it’s just for a moment, defaults his privilege to be the progenitor of the Am Hashem!
The Chosen People must have Hakodosh Boruch Hu uppermost in their thoughts always.
It means that even when you’re talking to the biggest tzaddik; let’s say you’re going out to welcome the greatest rosh yeshiva and you’re dancing around him and singing, if for a moment you forget about whom you’re really dancing and you think you’re dancing about this tzaddik, then you lose out!
If you become bribed by his personality, if you become bewitched by this great man and for a moment you forget about Hakodosh Boruch Hu, it means that something is wrong.
And that was the error that Malkitzedek made on that day; for a moment he lost himself and he put Avrohom first. It was only for a moment – he caught himself right away, but for the one who wants to be the father of the Am Hashem, it’s not good enough.
The Real Greatness of Avraham Avinu
first say a bracha to me, and only afterwards to give a bracha to Keil Elyon?”
And this is the real greatness of Avraham Avinu.
Says Rav Miller (quoting the Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim): Avraham Avinu never stopped thinking about Hashem.
And that was greater than anything else Avraham Avinu ever did.
This is the great test in This World: Always remember Hashem.
Whatever we're doing—no matter how mundane—never forget about Hashem.
The Correct Hashkafah: Great People are Ladders. Use Them Wisely.
- He was extremely wealthy.
- He composed many books, which people read.
- He had tens of thousands of disciples.
- He was handsome.
- He was charismatic (in a real way, due to his saintliness & noble countenance).
- He was a military hero.
- He taught the Egyptians mathematics & astronomy (from Josephus, quoting Berossus the Akkadian).
- He was very holy.
- He was profoundly wise.
- He was a Prophet.
It's easy to get lost in one's awe & reverence for such a truly great personality.
But Rav Miller says no. Watch out!
This is what we learn from Shem's seemingly innocent mistake.
A Tzaddik, a Rav, a Rebbe, a Rosh Yeshivah—they're all only ladders to reach Hashem.
Yes, we respect them & listen to them.
But at the same time, we know that Hashem put them among us to help us reach HASHEM.
Rav Miller loved all Jews. He loved chassidim. He never allowed anyone to criticize any Rebbe. He always crushed criticism of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
He particularly admired the Satmar Rav Yoel Teitelbaum.
And here is Rav Miller's beautifully metaphorical take on the cause of religious infighting among Jews and how to prevent it with the right outlook (pages 12-13):
The truth is that you always must keep in mind that your Rebbe is only a ladder – the Rebbe is only there to make it easier to climb up to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
But if a man just stands on the ladder and never reaches the shelf, then we tell him, “What are you standing there for?!”
There are a lot of people standing on ladders, and they’re all yelling at each other.
This one says, “My ladder is better,” and this one says, “My ladder is better than yours.”
So we tell them, “Get going already! Go higher!”
Once you understand that you’re climbing a ladder, then all Rebbes become “My Rebbe.”
The Satmerer Rebbe! Ahh! Zol ehr lang leiben! He’s a wonderful man. A big warrior; and he accomplished for us so much.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, zol ehr lang leiben! He accomplished so much and he’s still accomplishing.
They should both be our Rebbes because they both can bring us to Hakodosh Boruch Hu and that’s all that matters.
And he had appreciation, respect, and ahavat Yisrael for all legitimate Torah groups.
That's the key.
A Kosher Wife Makes Sure that Both She & Her Husband Put the Will of Hashem before Their Own
Now, if she can't say something, then she can't.
Some husbands are too combative, too corrupt, or too blind to listen.
It's simply not worth it for her to speak to him about what he's doing wrong; the price is too much to pay.
But if she can say something, she should.
Conversely, many women also do things against halacha "because my husband says so" or "because he likes this/wants me to do this."
The happens the most with regard to tsniyut, in which a great many married women dress with some lack of tsniyus in order to please her husband.
Another scenario occurs when the husband is such a great person. He's a great knowledgeable scholar too. His wife respects him so much—and for good reason.
Yet even then, she shouldn't blindly trust his judgement when she sees him doing something she knows he shouldn't.
Even very great people can get caught up in their own idealism, and so on.
So Rav Miller goes on at length about how your husband's will should never come before Hashem's Will.
Here's a snippet (page 14):
The answer is, that you should never forget about Hakodosh Boruch Hu!
Even the most pious wife who understands that a loyal wife bends to the will of her husband; and even when it concerns a great husband, a gadol, but still, he doesn’t come before Hakodosh Boruch Hu!
If something seems that it can be corrected, you shouldn’t keep quiet because even your husband’s great personality shouldn’t cause you to forget about Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
And therefore, because his wife didn’t say anything she was punished too. She heard; she was told what was happening, and she should have taken action.
She was a great woman; she wasn’t a plain person and she’d figure out a way to make a protest in the way that’s fitting for a wife with such a great husband.
Whatever it was, she’d have to do it, because it could be he’s the greatest husband, the gadol hador; it could even be Avrohom Avinu, but no matter, Hakodosh Boruch Hu comes first.
The Honor of Hashem Precedes the Honor of Parents
The idea here is to honor parents for Hashem's Sake.
Honoring a parent is about honoring Hashem.
That's why, if a parent requests or even demands that a child do something against the Torah, the child must not obey.
The refusal should be carried out nicely & respectfully. But the child should not capitulate.
The Big Lesson
This occurs with lashon hara, chanifah (flattery), and other aspects we don't always pay attention to in conversation.
And ultimately, this is what we learn from the loss of the Kahunah from all Shem's descendants.
Instead, the Kahunah transferred to Avraham Avinu, from where it ultimately transferred to the descendants of Aharon HaKohen where it remains until today.
Hashem comes first.