Points to Ponder
Lech Lecha 5776
Go from your land, birthplace and father’s home (12:1) – The first recorded test of Avraham seems to be out of order. Avraham should leave the home before the birthplace and the birthplace before the land. Why the reverse order? Rav Noach Weinberg ztl. noted that there are three spheres of influence that tend to affect a person’s thinking. To develop as a Yirei Shomayim, one must be willing to sacrifice all three spheres of influence – the first, is general society – one needs to think on his own. The next is to give up the values of the local media and community. Your definition of success or respect cannot be dependent on what everyone else’s is. The third is the parental home – the limitations of spiritual growth that perhaps exist within a person based on what his parents told him. One must not compromise on aspirations and clarity of what is right Al Pi HaTorah. That is why the test was Lech LECHA – to convince Avraham to be an independent thinker within Torah context.
And they were good to Avraham because of her (12:16) – How could Avraham take the gifts? After all, he does not do so with the king of Sodom? And why does Pharaoh give Avraham gifts while Avimelech does not? Rav Elyashiv ztl. explained that Shmuel Hanovi explains the rights of a king that include the right to take one’s children male or female. Therefore, when Avraham moved to Gerar, Avimelech had a right to take Sarah and did not have to “pay” for that right. However, in regard to Pharaoh, Avraham’s sojourn was temporary, until the famine ended. Therefore, taking Sarah was a Chutzpah on Pharaoh’s part for which he had to pay.
Separate from me please (13:9) – The concept of separation usually denotes a contentious relationship that leads to divorce between relations. Yet, Avraham presents the concept to Lot with the backdrop of brotherly love. How is separation something that keeps families together? Rav Dr. Benny Lau Shlita suggests that the difference is not in recognizing left and right as a turn in direction and the creating of distance. Rather, what was suggested was that each would continue to be in the reflection of the other – at the ready to help. Sometimes we think that we need to divorce ourselves from uncomfortable relationships with those whose physical or spiritual needs differ from ours. The Netziv (Meishiv Davar 44) notes that it is this exact differentiation and excommunication that led to Churban. Rav Lau adds that sometimes a little space allows one to live a devoted Jewish life but being at the ready to defend all of Klal Yisrael in the process.
Malkitzedek took out bread and wine (14:20) – Why did he take out bread and wine specifically? Rav Moshe Wolfson Shlita explains that bread and wine are unique that through the change that man puts into them, they are improved. In fact, their level of Beracha and Bracha order are improved. This highlights the idea that man has the ability to improve himself as well. Hence, after Yom Kippur, the Bas Kol declares that one should eat his bread in joy and drink his wine in goodness – for Yom Kippur is a day where man lives that change in practice. It is crucial to note that Shem is the one who teaches the lesson as he is Melech Shalem – even though he was born with a Bris, he saw the value of improvement.
Give me the people and take the money (14:21) – The Gemara (Nedarim 32) faults Avraham for returning the people to the king of Sodom. The Ran explains that Avraham could’ve taught them the Darchei Hashem. In fact, it is identified as one of the reasons for the enslavement of the Jews in Mitzrayim (at which time, Maharal explains, they left with many who converted). Rav Pam ztl. pointed out that the lesson here is very stark – it is a tragic mistake not to reach out to those who are seeking their way back to Torah life.
He told him to take 3 calves and three goats and three rams and a turtle dove and dove (15:9) – Why were so many animals necessary for this Bris? The Aruch HaShulchan (Haggadas Leil Shimurim) explains that after Hashem promised Eretz Yisrael to his children in the future, Avraham wondered how Hashem would be able to keep that promise if the children do Avairos? That’s why Hashem told him to take the different animals – which correspond to different nations (Eigel to Egypt, Ayil to Persia & Madai and Eiz to Greek) while the birds refer to Doves. The nations tend to crack and absorb other nations as a result of assimilation. The Jewish nation does not work that way. That’s the answer to Avraham’s question about how he will get Hashem to be able to keep the promise of Eretz Yisrael. As long as we stay unadulterated, we will deserve Eretz Yisrael.
Milah – In the context of Birkas HaMazon we mention Eretz Yisrael and Bris Milah. Why ? Rav Schachter Shlita explained that the Gemara in Berachos notes that the Zechus of Eretz Yisrael came as a gift to Avraham because of the Mitzvah of Milah. (Hashem gave a gift of Eretz Yisrael to Avraham on the occasion of the Bris.) That is why we mention the Bris, in context of Eretz Yisrael and the history of the Jewish nation.
Haftorah – Who awakened from the East (Yeshaya ) - Chazal note that this is a reference to Avraham. Rav Gideon Weitzman Shlita explains that Hashem wanted Avraham to recognize that his movement was “Lecha” for himself, if it were to be Meiyir. Owning it guarantees commitment necessary for success.