Parshat Lech Lecha 5777 2016 – It’s Time To Come Home

When Hashem tells Avraham to leave his home and go to the Promised Land, He does not tell him where it is. He simply says he should go: אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ, “…to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12,1) Why does He not tell him to which land He wants him to go?

One answer given to this question is that had he been told the name of the land his friends would have tried to discourage him from going. They would have told him it is a barren land; all desert, wild animals, wild people, bad weather and so on.

It is interesting that today when people say they are going to make Aliya and move to Israel people immediately try to discourage them.
When I notified a leader of a Zionist organization that I was making Aliya I got a strange response from him. He was working to help Israel, yet, his remark to me was, “Hishtagata”, “Are you crazy?”

Perhaps they feel guilty for not making Aliya themselves and as a protective justification they try to discourage others. Everyone who can, should do what Avraham did.


Dvar Torah on Parshat Lech Lecha 5776 2015 – Jews are Different

The Torah offers no background of Avraham before we read the command given him: לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ, “…go for yourself from your land…”. (Gen. 12,1) What, indeed, was his greatness that Hashem selected him to give him the Land of Israel? We learn later that he is known as: הָעִבְרִי, “the Ivri”.(Gen. 14,13)

The word Ivri may have many meanings. One meaning that Chazal give us is “one who stands on the other side”. This implies that Avraham was not afraid to maintain his beliefs or his identity even among strangers who may not understand or accept his beliefs. He did not join in the practices or the culture of his environment but stood “on the other side of them”.

This trait of our forefather has been part of the Jewish people who live the life of the Torah. Withstanding the persecutions the Jews endured through many centuries and many countries, the practicing Jew did not give up his beliefs and stood “on the other side” of his surrounding cultures.

This accounts for the hatred the world had and still has against the Jews. The nations of the world cannot understand how the Jew can stand alone against the currents and the streams that the entire world accepts.

Dvar Torah on Parshat Lech Lecha 5774 2013

Towards the end of the Sidra Hashem promises Avraham that Sarah his wife will give birth to a son. When Avraham heard this the Torah said: וַיִּצְחָק “…he laughed”. (Gen. 17,17), Onkelos translates this word as “rejoiced”. He was happy to hear that at his age he was still able to have a son who would carry on with his traditions.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in his Biblical commentary takes a different approach. People laugh at things that seem absurd. Avraham laughed because he was promised a son at his old age who would develop into a great nation and the hopes of the whole future of mankind would be placed on this child. To Avraham this sounded absurd that he and Sarah at their age could have such a son.

Avraham and Sarah laughed about the birth of their son and the entire world is laughing at the descendants of this son. They laugh at our beliefs. They laugh at our dreams. They laugh at our existence. They laugh at our aspirations of having a nation among the nations of the world.

Yet despite the world’s attitude towards the Jews, we have been fulfilling the hopes of Avraham, and his progeny is a leader in contributing innovations and creations that are used today by people all over the world. The Jews in proportion to their numbers have offered the world more than any other people have.

Dvar Torah Parshat Lech Lecha 5773 2012

Hashem promises Avraham that He is giving him the Land of Israel that extends from the river of Egypt עַד הַנָּהָר הַגָּדֹל נְהַר פְּרָת, “…to the great river the Euphrates River.” (Gen. 15,18) The Euphrates River is first mentioned in the Torah in the Portion of Bereshit where we are told that a river issues forth from Eden and divides into four rivers. (Gen.2,10) The four rivers are named and the last one mentioned is the Euphrates.

When the Euphrates River is mentioned in today’s Portion, Rashi suggests that since it was previously mentioned as the last of the four rivers it is an indication that it is the smallest of them. Hence he explains why it is called here “the great river”. His justification is that since it is associated with the borders of Israel it is called the great river.

A great meaningful truth is expressed here. Your associations indicate what kind of a person you are. If you socialize with important and interesting people than your prestige is greater. If your contacts are with lower types of individuals then you are looked upon as in the same class and category as they are.

Perhaps this is the same as the saying: Birds of the same feathers fly together.

Dvar Torah Parshat Lech Lecha 5772 2011

Hashem speaks to Avraham and tells him to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s house and He directs him to Israel. As a reward for observing this command Avraham is promised: VE’ESCHA LEGOY GADOL VA’AVARECHECHA VA’AGADLAH SHEMECHA VEHEYEH BERACHAH, “And I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” (Gen. 12,2)

The Talmud and the Midrashim, and Rashi quoting them, give many interpretations to the meaning of these blessings. In light of historical hind-sight and in view of modern events, it occurs that additional understandings of these blessing may be explained.

The first blessing was that Avraham will be made a great nation. Recognizing that the number of Jewish people today is so small how can we comprehend the fulfillment of this blessing? Perhaps the answer can be in a slightly different appreciation of its meaning. It does not intend to say that the Jews at any time will be counted in great numbers. Rather the meaning is that throughout the centuries, if you add up all the Jews that had existed, we out-number all other people who came and disappeared. The Jewish population, if added up during all the centuries of their survival, has been enormous. This fulfills the blessing.

The next blessing was to make the name of Avraham and his descendants great. When you look at history and see the position that Jews have held in almost every country in the world, you can appreciate that their name has been great. Wherever they went they contributed greatly to the host country. They were accepted and appreciated until jealousy took hold and they were chased out.

The final promise was that they will be a blessing. In spite of the great negative approach of the world to Israel and despite Israel’s constant battle with its enemies for survival, it has contributed to the progress of the modern world far above its proportion in population. No other country has made as many contributions to mankind per capita as the Jews of the world and of Israel have made.

Dvar Torah Parshat Lech Lecha 5770 2009

In the opening verse of the Sidra, Hashem says to Avraham LECH LECHA. Translated literally this means: go for your own sake. Rashi comments on this Pasuk LEHANA’ATCHA ULETOVATCHA, “for your own benefit, for your own good.”

Some derive from this the moral lesson that a person is obligated to do the best he can for himself. Many people fall short of accomplishing what they could according to their potential. There is a famous saying in Chassidic literature that it is not asked of Zusha (a plain ordinary Jew) why he is not like the Bal Shem Tov but rather why is he not like Zusha. The implication is that he is not expected to do more than his ability allows him. He should, however, at least live up to what he could accomplish if he tried his best.

Many folks are frustrated that they cannot compete with their peers. Many lose self confidence because they cannot achieve the goals they set for themselves. The truth though is that we cannot all be outstanding in all endeavors. We all have our own specific abilities. We do not have to do the impossible. We are merely expected to succeed according to our own abilities and to reach the maximum that we can with our own given gifts. We must strive to do the best we can within our own capacity.

Dvar Torah Parshat Lech Lecha 5769 2008 דבר תורה פרשת לך לך

There was a war between kings and Avraham got involved in it. What was his interest? It certainly wasn’t political since these lands were not his and he had no interest in any territorial acquisition or financial gain. He was wealthy in his own merit. His mere interest was to rescue his nephew Lot who had been taken hostage.

The famous commentary Seforno says on the verse: VAYIKCHO ET LOT, “And they took Lot…” (Gen. 14,12) the kings new that Avraham was extremely wealthy and he would not hesitate to pay the enormous redemption price they would demand. Avraham did not wait for any demands made by the kidnappers, though to him the money he would have to pay was no real problem.

Instead, he went to war. Why? Because he realized that if he would pay an exorbitant amount to redeem his nephew it would only encourage further kidnappings and even greater demand. It is important to do whatever is needed to save a life but the consequences of how we save must also be taken into consideration.