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In Bereshit 12:11-16, we see that Avraham was willing to receive gifts from Pharoah:

11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife: 'Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon.

12 And it will come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they will say: This is his wife; and they will kill me, but thee they will keep alive.

13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister; that it may be well with me for thy sake (They will give me gifts. - Rashi), and that my soul may live because of thee.'

14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.

15 And the princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

16 And he dealt well with Abram for her sake; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels.

Yet he refused gifts from the King of Sodom (Bereshit 14:21-24):

21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram: 'Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.'

22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom: 'I have lifted up my hand unto the LORD, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth,

23 that I will not take a thread nor a shoe-latchet nor aught that is thine, lest thou shouldest say: I have made Abram rich;

24 save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, let them take their portion.'

Rashi 14:23 explains why Avraham didn't want to take anything from the king of Sodom:

that you should not say, [I have made Abram rich]: The Holy One, blessed be He, promised to make me rich, as it is said (above 12:2): “and I will bless you, etc.”

Why wasn't he worried Pharaoh would say the same thing?

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8 Answers 8

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I heard in the name of the Maharal (in Gur Arye, but I haven't had a chance to check it inside,) that Avram understood that the wealth Hashem had promised him would come through natural means, and that he therefore didn't mind taking gifts from people. But Bera's gifts were awarded to him for distasteful acts, so he understood that those could not be the means Hashem intended for him to gain wealth. So he declined them: if those are not the fulfillment of the Hashem's promise, then he didn't want to take them. (This fits in with Rashi (as one might expect of the Gur Arye): Rashi says he had Hashem's promise in mind when he refused Bera's gifts.)


My kid answered that Avram didn't want Bera to say he had enriched him, but there was little fear of that from Par'o who, being distant, would not hear if Avram became rich [rather than, perhaps, losing his money to bandits on the way home].

And I heard in the name of an irreligious Jew that Avram was unwilling to accept gifts as recompense for doing kindness so as to increase kidush Hashem, whereas that concern was irrelevant in Mitzrayim. (This does not easily fit in with Rashi, who says he didn't want to accept from Bera because of Hashem's promise.)

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Re what I heard in the name of an irreligious Jew, see also another answer and comments thereto. –  msh210 Nov 6 '11 at 16:50
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Here's the Gur Aryeh:: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14210&pgnum=90 –  Menachem Nov 6 '11 at 16:50
    
Here's a loose translation of the Gur Aryeh: ------ The King of Sodom only gave Avraham the money because he was captured and the loss he incurred. Avraham realized that this money wasn't part of the blessing of wealth G-d gave him, since "Blessing" is not something that comes from distress. Pharaoh on the other hand, gave Avraham wealth in order to honor him. This is the blessing G-d gave Avraham, that he would be honored by others until the give him gifts... –  Menachem Nov 9 '11 at 0:08
    
...[Although Pharaoh gave him presents because of the plague that befell him (so I might think this is also a gift that came from distress), Pharaoh's gift was considered a blessing because it was part of his atonement. This was not the case with the King of Sodom] –  Menachem Nov 9 '11 at 0:08
    
---- This is slightly different than the answer given above, since the distinction is not whether the money came through natural means or not, but whether the gifts were given out of distress or from a place of good. –  Menachem Nov 9 '11 at 0:10

The book Hege Yona (Jerusalem 5756), by my grandfather-in-law Rabbi Yona Munk, includes the following (in my own free translation):

14:23: "or if I take anything from you, lest you say 'I enriched Avram'"

The question that arises is why Avraham agreed to take gifts from Par'o and Avimelech, not worrying they'd say they enriched Avram.

One can simply differentiate: He had no choice but to take from Par'o and Avimelech, as they were rulers over the land he was in, and not accepting their gifts would slight them, which could be dangerous to him. The king of S'dom was different: Avram had just saved his life, and he was completely poor.

But truly, he accepted Par'o and Avimelech's gifts willingly, as he knew this was from Hashem, a fulfillment of "vaavarech'cha" (as Rashi explains, with money). But one can infer from the following verse, "vaavar'cha m'var'checha", where Hashem's blessing is written before that of the person who blesses Avraham (as opposed to "umkalelcha aor", where Hashem's curse is written after the people's), that the blessing of Hashem will have already reached those who try to benefit Avram. That is, they will benefit him when already rich. So it didn't make sense that "vaavar'cha m'var'checha" would be talking about a gift from someone lowly like the king of S'dom.

And one can make an additional distinction. Par'o and Avimelech, whose punishment came through a revelation of Hashem to them (Par'o knew the punishment he was getting was for Saray), understood that Hashem wanted to protect Avraham and Sara, so gave them gifts to enrich them, as an appeasement of Hashem. Therefore, Avraham didn't worry they'd say "I enriched Avraham". The king of S'dom, on the other hand, had no angel appear to him, and he only made his offer of riches to Avram after he saw that Avram had given maaser to Malki Tzedek. His offer "v'es har'chush kach lach" implies that he considered the wealth his own, and that he was giving it to Avram (otherwise, he could just say "ten li hanefesh") — but really it was Avram's and his men's, as spoils of war. This gall of the king of S'dom, especially that he said this after Avram tithed, as if to say "don't tithe until it's yours", is what angered Avram. So he answered "v'im ekach mikol asher lach v'al tomar ani heesharti es Avram". Meaning, "from someone like who, who maintains that the wealth is his own, as you've just insisted on publicly, I can't accept, as you'll say 'I enriched Avram'. I will be enriched by Hashem, in a way that everyone will know that he did it".

If I understand his last explanation correctly, he means to distinguish the S'dom case from the others by saying that Bera would not acknowledge that Avram's wealth would come from Hashem, so would say "I enriched Avram", whereas the other kings would acknowledge Avram's wealth would come from Hashem. How did Avram know this? By the facts that (1) Bera was so audacious as to incorrectly insist the wealth was his own, and (2) the other kings were appeasing Hashem by offering the gifts.

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Hak'sav V'hakabala answers that Avram did not, in fact, receive gifts from Par'o. The verse says only that Par'o did good to Avram and Avram had possessions, but does not say Par'o gave him anything: this means only that Par'o very kindly did not take any of Avram's possessions away from him.

Note that this answer does not accord with the Rashi quoted in the question, which said that Avram anticipated accepting gifts from Par'o. It also does not seem to address the Avimelech issue.

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Someone e-mailed me:

I was also thinking that from Pharaoh he took because it was to compensate for the suffering of Sara Imainu. Furthermore, "ain bracha metzuya b'baiso shel adam ela bishvil ishto", so he knew that was from the bracha, and the money from Sedom was not from the bracha.

I think the tzu shtel of "ain bracha..." I heard from R' Helman in the Mir.

[Tzu-shtel, Yiddish, literally "stand-to", here roughly "connection". The maxim is from Bava M'tzia 59:1.]

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Daas Sof'rim says the following (in my own free translation), but I don't pretend to understand it:

"lest you say 'I enriched Avram'": It seems this was not the main reason for his refusal to take from the loot: after all, he did take gifts from Par'o. It was an additional reason directed at this wicked king, for Avraham knew he would pride himself on this.

(See also the comments on this post.)

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Perviously, The Daas Sof'rim says that the reason Avraham didn't want to take the money was because Redeaming Captives is a mitzvah, and he didn't want to take money for doing a mitzvah. -hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=39781&pgnum=138 . So what he told the King of Sodom was just an added reason/excuse. –  Menachem Nov 6 '11 at 16:37
    
@Menachem, ah, thank you! In that case, this is much like what the irreligious Jew I quote in another answer said. –  msh210 Nov 6 '11 at 16:48
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very similar, but I think the Daas Sof'rim's focus is on the distastefulness of taking monetary reward for doing a mitzvah, as opposed to the kiddush hashem aspect of it. –  Menachem Nov 6 '11 at 16:53
    
I agree, @Menachem. –  msh210 Nov 6 '11 at 18:49

This is an idea I heard some time ago.

Hashem promised Avraham that he will be wealthy.

Avraham knew that money that was given to him happily by the giver would be coming from Hashem. This is the case of Pharoah who gave the money willfully as presents.

In the case of S'dom the money actually belonged to Avraham: During the war S'dom lost it and Avraham go it back similar to the case of "Hefker". But he knew that the people of S'dom got nothing left and were very sad to have to depart from their belongings. This is how he knew that he should take this money.

The Torah Temima brings two additional ideas why not to keep S'dom's money:

  1. Kidush Hashem: Avraham is giving money from a "metzia" which was his.

  2. He knew that his victory was a miracle. In Masechet Ta'anit (24a) we learn you are not supposed to enjoy the fruits of a miracle.

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The body of your question differs slightly from the title, so I will focus on that (i.e. why he wasn't worried Pharoah would say the same thing). Here's an answer from this Ohr Somayach Parsha Q&A (see Kasha section), as heard from Rabbi Michael Bachar:

Avraham suspected that the king of Sodom would publicize the fact that he enriched Avraham. Pharaoh, on the other hand, wouldn't brag about his gifts to Avraham. Since they were given under embarrassing circumstances, Pharaoh would avoid mentioning them in order to avoid drawing attention to the incident.

You can also see there for a different answer on the question in your title...

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Why do you feel the Abarbanel's answer wouldn't work according to Rashi? –  Menachem Nov 4 '11 at 21:42
    
@Menachem corrected that part. thanks. –  yydl Nov 6 '11 at 0:35
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In case that link goes down, I'll copy here from there the "different answer" (quoted there in the name of Abarbanel) that this post alludes to: Had Avram refused Par'o's gift, Par'o might have realized they were married. –  msh210 Nov 7 '11 at 17:28

Isn't it simply that Avraham had not yet received the promises of land and dynasty when he was in Egypt but he had by the time he was in S'dom? The last thing that happened before he went to rescue Lot was that dual promise. Following that, Avraham resolved to receive the good things that were coming to him from Hashem alone.

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How do you figure? According to the view that the bris bein habesarim took place when Avraham was 70, then that preceded both the encounter with Pharaoh and the war with the four kings. If we go with the order as given in the Torah, then the BBHB is recorded after both of them. –  Alex Nov 4 '11 at 21:31
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@Alex: WAF may be referring to Bereshit 13:14-17 - chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8208/showrashi/true/jewish/… , although that was not a covenant. –  Menachem Nov 4 '11 at 21:39
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@Alex and Menachem, you are both right. Thank you for the correction and limud z'chus. I have edited my answer. But over shabas it also occurred to me (although I didn't see it inside) that maybe S'dom was just more reprehensible than Mitzrayim so Avraham wanted no association with it, as he says. –  WAF Nov 5 '11 at 23:25

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