Parsha

For the week ending 23 October 2004 / 8 Heshvan 5765

Parshat Lech Lecha

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

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 G-ds existence, and thus merits that G-d appear to him. At the beginning of this weeks Torah portion G-d tells Avram to leave his land, his relatives and his father's house and travel to an unknown land where G-d 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 G-d. When they reach the land of Canaan, G-d 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 wifes 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 G-d 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, G-d 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 weekly portion concludes with G-d commanding Avram to circumcise himself and his offspring throughout the generations as a Divine covenant. G-d changes Avrams name to Avraham, and Sarais 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.

Insights

The War Of The Kings

And it happened in the days of Amraphel, king of Shinar (14:1)

There once was a wealthy merchant whose business dealings took him to many distant lands. On one such trip, the merchant fell ill. His condition deteriorated rapidly and felt his end was near. Lying on his deathbed, he was distressed by the thought that his possessions might fall into the hands of the slave who was with him and never reach his son whom he had left at home.

He called to the slave and instructed him Summon the scribe that I may dictate my last will and testament! The scribe arrived and the merchant began to dictate, I hereby bequeath to my slave all that I possess. My son shall inherit only one thing of mine, which shall be of his choosing.

The slave was beside himself with joy. When the merchant passed away, he hastened to return to the son and inform him of his fathers demise - and the will.

The son was heartbroken by the loss of his father and his inheritance, and he went to consult his rabbi.

The rabbi listened to the sons tale and smiled.

Your father was a wise man. He made sure that his possessions would not be lost or stolen by the slave. He gave them to him knowing that he would guard those possessions as if they were his own. Tomorrow, when the slave presents your fathers will before Bet Din and claims for himself all possessions save one, put your hand on his shoulder and say, I choose this slave from among all my fathers possessions. Once you acquire the slave, all that belongs to him will become yours, and your father will have successfully bequeathed to you his entire estate, as was his intention.

Sure enough, the following day, the courts awarded the son the slave together with all the fathers possessions.

One of the more surprising success stories of the last fifty years is the German economy. The Second World War left Germany broke, broken, and carved up between the Americans and the Russians. Some fifty years later, Germany is one of the richest and productive nations in the world.

How did this happen? Apart from any politico-economic reasons, this weeks Torah portion offers us a perspective on this enigma.

We read this week of the War of the Kings. Behind the scenes, G-d incited the four kings to go to war with the five kings in order that their fortune would ultimately fall into Avrahams hands. Just as G-d manipulated the cogs of history to protect Avraham, so too has He stage-managed the success of the Germans, and others, so that the descendents of Avraham will receive what G-d had decreed.

G-d preserves the possessions of the wicked so that the righteous can inherit them.

  • Source: Based on the Midrash Tanchuma (Lech Lecha 8)

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