Parsha

For the week ending 8 November 2008 / 10 Heshvan 5769

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

Schnorrers!

“G-d said to Avram, ‘Go for yourself…’ ” (12:1)

Opening his front door, the Rabbi found himself face to face with the local priest.

“Rabbi, may I have a few words with you?” asked the priest. “Of course, Father,” replied the Rabbi somewhat nervously.

“Rabbi,” began the priest, “It must be evident to you that in this town we are plagued by thieves. Scarcely a day passes without one of my flock coming to me bemoaning the fact that his house has been broken into. On the other hand, I have noticed that thieves do not bother you Jews nearly as much.”

“Father, you are correct.”

“Yes, but why is that?” inquired the priest.

“Look at this little box here on the side of my doorpost” said the Rabbi. “It’s called a mezuza. We Jews believe that when we put a mezuza on the entrances to our houses, the Holy One, may His Name be blessed, protects both us and our property.”

“In that case”, replied the priest, “I must have one!”

Not wishing to be the cause of an incipient pogrom, the Rabbi reluctantly handed over a mezuza to the priest.

Some two weeks later the Rabbi was awakened by the sound of someone pounding violently on his door. Dressing himself hastily, he made his way down the stairs. “Who’s there?” the Rabbi asked tremulously. “Open the door! Open the door!” screamed a voice on the other side. Leaving the door on the latch, the Rabbi cracked the door wide enough to see the priest standing in front of him, his eyes wild with great distraught.

”What happened?” asked the terrified Rabbi, “Robbers?”

“No!” screamed the priest, “Schnorrers!”

If there’s one thing of which the world does not accuse the Jewish People, it’s being mean to our own.

The word “charity” does not exist in Hebrew. “Charity” implies that I’m doing the recipient a favor. What the world calls “charity”, the Jew called tzedaka. Tzedaka comes from the same root as the word tzekek, meaning “right and correct”. Giving to those in need is simply doing what’s right — it’s obligatory, not self-congratulatory.

In mystical thought, Avraham, the progenitor of the Jewish People, epitomizes the quality of kindness. It’s not by coincidence that Avraham was also the first person to look at the world and see in it the existence of G-d.

What is the connection between being kind and belief in a Creator?

Kindness means giving of myself. If I sensitize myself to the act of giving, it’s a small step from that sensitivity to seeing existence as the biggest gift there is.

And that gift has to have a Giver.

Avraham’s belief in G-d came from his kindness, from being a giver. It’s no wonder then that the people who proclaim G-d’s existence should have an unparalleled number of individuals and institutions that dispense kindness without measure.

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