For the week ending 16 October 2010 / 7 Heshvan 5771

Parshat Lech Lecha

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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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 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.


Gathering Leaves

“…Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house…” (12:1)

Autumn always brings with it one of the strangest machines in the world.

On my way to work, I cross a small park with some trees. Around this time of the year, the trees shed their leaves littering up the paths with a beautiful mess of gold and ochre.

A street cleaner is dispatched to clear the paths and allow the relentless pace of urban life to proceed unimpeded.

Now, if I were designing a machine to clear the paths of leaves, I would sketch something like a large vacuum cleaner that would gather up the leaves once and for all. However, what this fellow has is totally the reverse: a large – and noisy – blower that doesn't clean the paths. It simply blows the leaves somewhere else from where they can be blown back again any time the wind chooses.

What did the inventor of this tool have in mind when he designed this thing? And this machine is no mere local aberration. I've seen similar devices from London to Los Angeles.

This weeks Torah portion marks a new beginning; a different way of looking at the world.

When G-d created the world, He first looked into the Torah. Everything that exists in the physical world has a spiritual source in the Torah.

Avraham looked into the world and he saw Torah.

Avraham was called 'the Ivri' – "the one who crossed over". Literally this means that he crossed over the Euphrates to the land of Canaan, but in a deeper sense it means that Avraham changed the way mankind looked at the world - from idol worship to the service of the true G-d.

The truth obliges. When you see the truth of something, only a dishonest person can continue to live unchanged by his discovery.

When Avraham looked at the world, he saw that the way people were living was as illogical as a machine that blows away leaves rather than gathering them up.

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