Torah Weekly - Parshat Lech Lecha
Parshat Lech Lecha
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Ten generations have passed since Noach. Man has descended spiritually. In the year 1948 from Creation, Avram is born. By observing the world, Avram comes to recognize Hashem's existence, and thus merits that Hashem appear to him. At the beginning of this week's Parsha, Hashem tells Avram to leave his land, his relatives and his father's house and travel to an unknown land where Hashem will make him into a great nation. Avram leaves, taking with him his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, their servants, and those whom they converted to faith in Hashem. When they reach the land of Canaan, Hashem appears to Avram and tells him that this is the land that He will give to his descendants. A famine ensues and Avram is forced to relocate to Egypt to find food. Realizing that his wife's beauty would cause his death at the hand of the Egyptians, Avram asks her to say that she is his sister. Sarai is taken to Pharaoh, but Hashem afflicts Pharaoh and his court with severe plagues and she is released unmolested. Avram returns to Eretz Yisrael (Canaan) with much wealth given to him by the Egyptians. During a quarrel over grazing rights between their shepherds, Avram decides to part ways with his nephew Lot. Lot chooses to live in the rich but corrupt city of Sodom in the fertile plain of the Jordan. A war breaks out between the kings of the region, and Sodom is defeated. Lot is taken captive. Together with a handful of his converts, Avram rescues Lot, miraculously overpowering vastly superior forces, but Avram demurs from accepting any of the spoils of the battle. In a prophetic covenant, Hashem reveals to Avram that his offspring will be exiled to a strange land where they will be oppressed for 400 years, after which they will emerge with great wealth and return to Eretz Yisrael, their irrevocable inheritance. Sarai is barren and gives Hagar, her Egyptian hand-maiden, to Avram in the hope that she will provide them with a child. Hagar becomes arrogant when she discovers that she is pregnant. Sarai deals harshly with her, and Hagar flees. On the instruction of an angel Hagar returns to Avram, and gives birth to Yishmael. The Parsha concludes with Hashem commanding Avram to circumcise himself and his offspring throughout the generations as a covenant between Hashem and his seed. Hashem changes Avram's name to Avraham, and Sarai's name to Sarah. Hashem promises Avraham a son, Yitzchak, despite Avraham being ninety-nine years old and Sarah ninety. On that day, Avraham circumcises himself, Yishmael and all his household.
AND WITH THIS WE'LL CLOSE...
"And you shall be a blessing." (12:2)
There's something that Abraham had in common with a lot of today's Jews. He didn't grow up frum (religious).
The attrition of the Jewish People didn't stop with Nazi Germany. After six million Jews had been murdered in Europe, an equal number of Jews have been lost to Judaism through assimilation. While some mixed relationships have led to the creation of genuine and enthusiastic Jewish spouses, the vast majority have produced children who are either not Jewish or not interested in being Jewish.
However, ever since the Six Day War, there's been a fascinating anti-historical trend. Since 1967 -- shortly, and un-coincidentally, after the Western Wall returned to Jewish hands -- thousands of Jews from non-religious backgrounds have become frum. And not just frum; today you can find ba'alei teshuva who have become the "professors" of Jewish learning. Their numbers are minuscule compared to the vast figures for intermarriage, but they are a significant and visible trend in today's community.
What does it mean when we see a large number of unaffiliated Jews embracing their Jewish spirituality and identifying as the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
In this week's Torah portion, Abraham leaves his land, his relatives and his father's house to travel to a spiritual land and be the founder of the Jewish People. Abraham didn't have the benefit of a great Torah sage for a father. His father was in a different line: He was an idol manufacturer. Not a job for a Jewish boy. Even though Abraham's son, Isaac, had a grandfather who was an idol maker, he at least had the advantage of growing up in the home of a spiritual giant, his father Abraham. And Jacob, the "choicest" of the patriarchs, was completely removed from Abraham's roots; he inherited both his father's and his grandfather's spiritual achievements and their lifestyle.
In the first blessing of the Amidah, the standing prayer, we address the Creator through our family connections. We call on Him as "the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob." However, when we come to the end of that blessing we only address Him as "the G-d of Abraham." What happened to Isaac and Jacob?
The first blessing of the Amidah depicts a historical process. Eventually at the end of the road, when history draws to a close, G-d will be seen in the world as the G-d of Abraham. For it will be those Jews who have emulated Abraham and left their land, "their relatives and their father's house to travel to a spiritual land" who will be the ones to write the last chapter of Jewish history.
- Rabbi Shimon Shkop as heard from Rabbi C. J. Senter
Yeshaya 40:27 - 41:16
In the time of Nimrod, the entire world, with its power-crazed worship of might, knew only battle and destruction. Enter Avraham. Avraham dedicated his life to proclaiming G-d's presence through every step and every action, bringing light into a world of darkness. When the world's nations were fighting, Avraham's sword and bow were left to gather dust. But when it became a necessity for Avraham to engage in battle, G-d gave him victory. The biggest miracle was not that Avraham won the battle, but that he won the war. By remaining a peace loving servant of G-d, he won the war against the prevailing mentality of war and destruction.
So too, says the Prophet Yeshaya, will Avraham's descendants return to Jerusalem in peace as G-d delivers us from our oppressors. However we must first be worthy of being called "the descendants of Avraham." Like Avraham, we must live our lives in peace and harmony fulfilling G-d's will with our every action.
"Every man would support his friend and say 'Be strong' ... as the hammer polisher supports the anvil striker." (Yeshaya 41:6,7)
When the hammer strikes the anvil it appears that the purpose is to shape and form the anvil. The opposite it true: It eis the hammer that is knocked into shape. So, when a person helps and supports his friend, the giver often gains more than the recipient. The root of the word "ahavah" (love) is "hav" (give). The more a person gives, the more he develops love and other positive traits.
Selections from classical Torah sources
which express the special relationship between
the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael
A LAND LIKE YOURS
The respect he showed for Eretz Yisrael by not daring to suggest that there was a land superior to it, say our Sages, gained for him the merit of being referred to elsewhere (Ezra 4:10) as "the great and noble Asnappar" (Sanhedrin 94a).
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow
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