For the week ending 1 November 2014 / 8 Heshvan 5775

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 could 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.


Spiritual Fall-Out

“Go for yourself…” (12-1)

Radiation poisoning is a collection of health effects which present themselves within 24 hours of exposure to high amounts of ionizing radiation.

The radiation causes cellular degradation due to damage to DNA and other key molecular structures within the cells in various tissues. This destruction, particularly as it affects ability of cells to divide normally, in turn causes the symptoms. The symptoms can begin within one or two hours, and may last for several months.

The onset and type of symptoms depend on the radiation exposure. Relatively smaller doses result in gastrointestinal effects, such as nausea and vomiting, and symptoms related to falling blood counts, such as infection and bleeding. Relatively larger doses can result in neurological effects and rapid death. Acute radiation syndrome is generally treated with blood transfusions and antibiotics, with some more exotic treatments, such as bone marrow transfusions, being required in extreme cases.

Rabeinu Bachya, (Bahya ben Asher ibn Halawa, 1255-1340) writes that the root of the words that begin this week’s Torah portion “Lecha lecha” – “Go for yourself…” are from the root “lichluch” meaning “dirt”. In other words, G-d’s command to Avraham to leave his home and his family was to separate him from the spiritual filth that surrounded him.

Ostensibly, the last person to be affected by his surroundings should have been Avraham HaIvri. As our Sages tell us, HaIvri comes from the same root as the word meaning “to cross over”. The whole world was, so to speak, on one side, and Avraham “crossed over” to the other side, unafraid to proclaim the truth to a world that viewed him as a freak.

Of all humankind, Avraham was the person most immune to spiritual corruption.

Why, then, did G-d tell Avraham to escape?

Dirt is something that sticks to us without our knowledge and even against our will.

If we breathe the air of impurity, its poison will affect us however we try to protect ourselves from its fallout.

  • Sources: Bereishet Rabba 42:5; Rabbeinu Baycha; Rabbi Shimshon Pincus

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