Parshat Lech Lecha

A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Lech Lecha            13 Cheshvan 5763             October 19, 2002              Vol.12 No.3

In This Issue:

Rabbi Moshe Stavsky
Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Akiva Weiss
Simcha Yagod
Food For Thought

Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by
Ilana and Moshe Wertenteil in memory of the Yahrtzeit of Moshe’s father, Louis Wertenteil

A Uniting Force
by Rabbi Moshe Stavsky

Parshat Lech Lecha relates to us the life and times of Avraham Avinu, the first of the Avot. Much can be learned from a study of the origins of Avraham, his recognition of the Almighty, and his Avodat Hashem which can serve to instruct us in our endeavor to follow in his footsteps.

I would like to examine Avraham’s life in the context of people who were his contemporaries as well as of world events that took place before his coming on the scene.
At the end of Parshat Noach we read of the Dor Haflaga, who, although they displayed unity of purpose, were nevertheless misguided in their goal and were dispersed to the corners of the earth. Thus while the punishment of the Dor Hamabul was obliteration, that of their Dor was dispersion. Avraham’s life work, bringing people to Avodat Hashem, can then be seen as an endeavor to heal the separations that were created as a result of the Dor Haflaga.  The Medrash at the beginning of our Parsha asserts that the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim “Achot Lanu Ketana…” is referring to Avraham Avinu. The Medrash goes on to explain that this is because he was “Meacheh,” joined, [a play on words of “Achot”], the divisions  which existed in the world. Additionally, the Rambam, at the beginning of Hilchot Avodat Hakochavim writes that through his teachings, Avraham was “Mekabetz,” gathered people from city to city to unite mankind in the service of Hashem. But this was a unity which was predicated on Avodat Hashem as opposed to the “Venaaseh Lanu Shem” of the Dor Haflaga.

Avraham served to unite, but on the other hand his coming on the scene could be viewed as a threat to the prevalent Mesora at the time. The aforementioned Rambam relates that there were individuals throughout the generations such as Chanoch, Metushelach, Noach, Shem, and Eiver who preserved the Mesora and taught it to individuals in each subsequent generation. The Medrash Rabbah in Parshat Vayera describes a possible conflict in the perceptions of Avraham and Shem.  Hashem was faced, Kaviyachol, with a dilemma in naming Yerushalayim. Shem ben Noach is referred to as the king of “Shalem.” Avraham on the other hand referred to the city as “Yireh.”  Since calling the city either name would offend one Tzaddik, Hashem made a compromise and named the city Yerushalayim incorporating both ideas into the name.  A number of explanations are offered explaining the differing perspectives which guided the choice of the names “Shalem” and “Yireh.”

Given their unique roles in the Mesora, perhaps we can suggest that Shem, whose teachings were based upon the Mesora of previous generations saw his Avoda and role to perfect or be “Mashlim” that which he was given. He was the Master Craftsman who would polish and complete his creation.

By contrast Avraham Avinu was a revolutionary bursting through the idolatrous beliefs with which he was raised and blazing a new trail. He was a self made man who had the vision (Yireh) to lead people and unite them in their Avodat Hashem.

It is instructive to note that it is precisely this ability to discover and change direction which enables Avraham Avinu to bring people back to a recognition of the Ribbono Shel Olam and a commitment to his service.

Standing Idol
by Andy Feuerstein-Rudin

In this week’s Haftara it says in
ספר ישעיהו פרק מ"א פסוק ה , ראו איים וייראו קצות הארץ יחרדו קרבו ויאתיון,“See island dwellers, what a miracle I performed and be afraid!”  The פסוק tells us that even those who live at the ends of the Earth should be shaking when they hear about Avraham’s miraculous victory over the four kings. 

After the war, the King of Sedom went to Avraham to beg him for favors, and Avraham’s response to the King of Sedom’s request was “Give me back all your prisoners and take all of your spoils.” 

The Navi calls on all the nations, even those that live far away on islands, and tells them to abandon their idols.  Avraham’s reason to the nations why they had to get rid of their idols was that Avraham’s story proves to us that Hashem gives success to those who serve him.

פרק מ"א פסוק ז, two פסוקים later, the Navi continues and says, ויחזק חרש את צירף מחליק פטיש את הולם פעם אמר לדבק טוב הוא ויחזקיהו במסמכים לא ימוט, The carpenter who carves out the wooden idols encourages the smith (the one who overlays them with gold and silver) to work faster;  The one who smoothes the image with a hammer encourages the one who strikes at the anvil to beat the idol to shape.  When he bonds the metal to the wooden image with glue the worker says about the bonding ‘It is a good job!’” 

ישעיהו mocks the idol worshippers who were more eager then ever to make idols, even after hearing the words of history.  The Midrash then continues and says that the Pasuk that was just stated hints to the fact that שם is like a carpenter since he helped his father build the ark.  Avraham should be called a smith because he tried to get rid of the idol worshipping and tried to bring them under the wings of Hashem’s שכינה.  Avraham should also be considered a hammer, due to the fact that he debated the truth with his fellow man, “hammering away” at them, until they were on the straight path. 

When the “carpenter” and the “smith” met after the battle against the four kings, they encouraged each other.  Avraham ”strengthened שם with nails.”  When we say that Avraham strengthened שם  we mean Avraham strengthened him in Mitzvot and Midot Tovot.

Supernatural Gifts
by Akiva Wiess

In the beginning of
פרשת לך לך Hashem instructs אברהם to leave his birthplace to go to a land that Hashem will show him.  In return for following this arduous task Hashem promises יהיה ברכה.  The יהודי הקדוש מפשיסתא comments: what is the difference between הצלחה  and ברכה?  He answers that הצלחה   results from a natural phenomenon, whereas ברכה results from a supernatural phenomenon.  חוץ לארץ is unfortunate to have only הצלחה, events that could be explained by logic and reason, but ארץ ישראל is fortunate enough to have ברכה also, events that are above the restrictions of nature.  This is the meaning of the פסוק (תהילים קכח :ה) יברכך ה' מציון, “It is from (ארץ ישראל) ציון that Hashem delivers to gift of ברכה.” 

This is why Hashem said to אברהם, לך לך מארצך וממולדך... אל הארץ אשר אראך. In חוץ לארץ, אברהם could not merit to have children because he is so old.  However in ארץ ישראל Hashem can give him the ברכה of בנים.

by Simcha Yagod

For what purpose does Hashem write Lech Lecha, according to Rashi, who explains that
לך, “Go,” means “go for your good and for your benefit?”  Does Avram doubt that his command is in his best interest?  Even if that command gives him trouble would Avram not still fulfill his duty as he demonstrated by renouncing idol worship in an idolatrous society?  Hashem wrote Lech Lecha to teach us to only give advice to people if our advice serves only their interests.  None of our interests may be intertwined with our advice regarding other people.  It is possible Hashem writes this because the Gemara teaches us “Just like Hashem is merciful and compassionate one should also be merciful and passionate.”  Therefore Hashem lets us know, by inserting, לך that advice can only benefit the one who receives it.

Food For Thought
by Jerry M. Karp

1)  Why is
   כדרלעמרnot mentioned before the other kings in 14:1?

2)  Look at Bereishit 14:5 and Devarim 2:11.  Why in Bereishit are the
אמים  considered separate from the category of רפאים, but in Devarim, they are part of the category of רפאים?  (Rashi and שפתי חכמים on the word זוזים and Devarim 2:20 reinforce this question.)

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