For the week ending 5 November 2011 / 7 Heshvan 5772

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. G-d 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.


To Be a Blessing

“And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

One of the more interesting reactions to Gilad Shalit's release from more than five years of incarceration in Gaza was a 'tweet' from an Arab in Syria who said that the Israelis were prepared to give up 1,000 people to save one life, but their government treated its citizens' lives as though they were worthless.

The Jewish People are very often held to a higher and double standard.

In this case, we ourselves held ourselves to a higher standard. And so it should be. If nothing else, Shalit's release showed the world the sanctity with which the Jewish People prize human life and freedom.

“And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

The above sentence is part of the first recorded communication between G‑d and man. The beginning of the relationship. As it is the beginning, these words must also contain the essence of that relationship. For all beginning contains essence. A seed is not just the beginning of an oak, it is also its essence.

When G-d spoke to Avraham, He promised him many things: that he would be a great nation; that he would be blessed and that his name would be made great. However all of this was predicated on a single condition — that Avraham would be a reason for people to bless G-d. This was to be the essence of the relationship between G-d and man. That through his every action, man would sanctify G-d’s name. That he would bring a blessing to the lips of the world.

Our actions are scrutinized by the world. If we are held to a higher — and sometimes double — standard, whether as individuals or as a nation, it is because the world recognizes subconsciously that our job in this world is ‘to be a blessing’, to sanctify G-d’s name.

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