A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Lech Lecha 13 Cheshvan 5764 November 8, 2003 Vol.13 No.9
In This Issue:
Mr. Ezra Frazer
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
TORAH ACADEMY OF BERGEN COUNTY
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Blessed for Success
by Mr. Ezra Frazer
In the first two weeks of Sefer Bereshit, we read about the blessings that God bestowed upon Adam and Noach. These blessings emphasize two things: boundless reproduction and man’s masterdom over other living creatures. God blesses Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heaven, and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth” (1:28), and He similarly blesses Noach, “Be fruitful (“Pru”) and multiply (“Urvu”) and replenish the earth, and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the heavens, in everything that moves on earth and in all the fish of the sea; in your hand they are given. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; like the green herbage I have given you everything…And you, be fruitful (“Pru”) and multiply (“Urvu”); teem on the earth and multiply on it” (9:1-7).
In this week’s Parsha, when God selects Avraham and his descendants, God acknowledges Avraham’s special status by offering additional blessings. Were we to merely seek out parallels to the blessings of “Pru Urvu” that were given to Adam and Noach, we would conclude that God has chosen Yishmael as the next recipient of this great promise. He tells Avraham: “But regarding Yishmael I have heard you: I have blessed (“Berachti”) him, will make him fruitful (“Vihifreti”), and will increase him (“Vihirbeti”) most exceedingly (17:20). Examining this Pasuk in its context, however, demonstrates that Yishmael is receiving a mere “consolation prize” compared to the lofty blessings which God bestows upon Yitzchak.
Yishmael’s blessing is immediately followed by, “But I will fulfill my covenant with Yitzchak,” with the connecting letter Vav clearly meaning “but” rather than “and.” This was done to contrast Yishmael’s future which will include many descendants, with Yitzchak’s Brit. Earlier in Bereshit, God committed Himself to a covenant with Noach, promising that He would never again destroy the world (9:8-17). By receiving the same blessing’s as Adam and Noach, Yishmael can expect little more than the benefit of that covenant, survival of his progeny. Yitzchak, however, inherits the covenant between God and Avraham. This covenant includes the Promised Land (15:18-21). Moreover, at the beginning of Chapter 17, God appears to Avraham and reiterates his commitment to their covenant. This time, though, He employs phraseology that we associate with His promises to Adam and Noach: “I will set my covenant (“Briti”) between Me and you, and I will increase you (“Vaarbeh”) most exceedingly… As for Me, this is My covenant (“Briti”) with you: You shall be a father of a multitude of nations… I will make you exceedingly fruitful (“Vihifreti Otcha”)… I will ratify My covenant (“Briti”) between Me and you and between your offspring after you, throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your offspring after you; and I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourns – the whole land of Canaan – as an everlasting possession; and I shall be a God to them” (17:2-8). In quick succession, God refers to His covenant, promises Avraham that he will be fruitful and multiply, again refers to His covenant, and lastly promises Avraham the Land.
From this section we clearly see that God has promised Avraham the Land in addition to the blessings that He has bestowed upon all mankind. Yishmael will receive only the promise that applies to all mankind, while Yitzchak will receive everything.
(The distinction between the content of these two blessing - mankind’s and Avraham’s - also enables us to understand the difference between the blessing that Yitzchak gives Yaakov under the impression the he is Eisav and the blessing that Yitzchak knowingly give Yaakov; compare Bereshit 27:28-29 with 28:3-4.)
We are all privileged to be included in the full covenant that God transmits to Avraham and Yitzchak that Yitzchak later passes on to Yaakov. We must bear in mind that this covenant is a two-way street. As soon as God promises Avraham that this covenant will continue with his unborn son, Yitzchak, He commands Avraham to perform a new Mitzvah, circumcision. In order for us to merit the blessings of this week’s Parsha, we must do our part by strengthening our commitment to Mitzvot.
No Pain, No Gain
by Moshe Zharnest
Parshat Lech Lecha presents us with the unfolding of Jewish history. Avraham is the first Jew, not the first monotheist. The greatness of Avraham as told to us in Bereshit (18:19) is his ability to transmit his values and beliefs to future generations, something that his great predecessors including Chanoch, Noach, Shem, and Ever were not able to do. The Mishna in Masechet Avot (5:4) teaches that, “Asarah Nisyonot Nitnasa Avraham Avinu Veamad Bekulam, Lehodiya Kamah Chibaso Shel Avraham Avinu.” “Our forefather Avraham was tested with ten trials and he withstood them all, to show the degree of our forefather Avraham’s love for God.” Although there are different ways to reckon the exact nature of the ten tests, according to the Bartenura, seven of these tests are found in Parshas Lech Lecha.
What is the purpose of a test? It is clearly for man, as Hashem knows if man will pass the test or not. The Ohr HaChaim in his commentary on Bereshit (3:4,5) asks why Hashem tested the first couple with the snake. The Ohr HaChaim suggests that ultimately it is in man’s best interest to be challenged, and pass the test. Moreover, the reward received is equal with the energies expended in passing the test, as we are taught in Avot (5:23) “Lefum: Tzaara Agra” “corresponding to the pain/difficulty and struggle is the gain and personal reward.” The very term Nisayon (test or trial) comes from ness, banner. Each triumph over a test elevates the individual. Without tests, there is no personal advancement or growth.
Avraham was not born “Avraham Avinu,” our father, rather he developed and matured his relationship with Hashem by overcoming his basic instincts and living a life dedicated to higher standards. The Torah teaches us in Bereshit (15:5) that Hashem took Avraham outside to count the stars and say to him “Koh Yehiye Zaracha,” “Thus shall be your seed.” In addition to the literal interpretation that his children would be as many as the stars, Rashi cites the Midrash which teaches that Hashem removed Avraham from this world and informed him that Avram would not have a son but Avraham would; Hashem would change his name and his destiny. Rashi (17:1) explains the significance of adding the letter Hey to Avram’s name as signifying Avraham’s ability to control and master the five organs (eyes, ears, and procreation). Avram grows into Avraham. Rav Chaim Yaakov Goldwicht zt"l, founding Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Kerem Biyavneh, explains that the Pasuk “Koh Yehiye Zaracha,” “Thus shall be your seed,” can be interpreted as saying that so to will your children possess the ability to rise above their challenges and pass their tests. This may be seen from the Medrash Bereshit Rabbah (87:8) that attributes Yosef’s ability to “flee and run outside” (Bereshit 39:15) and pass his test to the merit of his great-grandfather Avraham, regarding whom we are told similarly, “Vayotze Oto Hachutza,” “Hashem brought him outside.”
The Gemara Sanhedrin, 107a, teaches in the name of R. Yehudah in the name of Rav, “A person should never bring himself to a test,” i.e., should not place himself into a situation in where will be tested to sin, for King David brought himself to a test and stumbled and succumbed to temptation. David asked Hashem why he could not be included in the opening blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei, and amend the blessing to read, “God of Avraham, God of Issac, God of Jacob, and God of David.” Hashem answered that the three patriarchs were tested by Him and withstood the tests, whereas David had not been tested. David then asked to be tested. Hashem agreed and even told him that the test would be in the area of physical temptation. Though forewarned, that night, David sinned with Bat-Sheva.
It is true that every morning we pray, “Do not bring us into the power of error, nor into the power of transgression and sin, nor into the power of challenge,” as we are fearful that we will not pass the test. Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt"l in Sichot Mussar (5733:6) explains that when Hashem tests an individual, He provides them as well with the ability to pass the test. Hashem only tests those that can pass. However, when one brings a test upon himself, he is not necessarily awarded the divine assistance needed to pass. We conclude the Hallel with “Oidcha Ki Anitani,” “I thank you Hashem for answering me.” The Malbim understands this to mean, “I thank you for the challenges and difficulties you have placed before me,” as the Ohr Hachayim teaches, that “the greater the physical and spiritual effort to overcome potential impediments to our faith, the greater the reward stored up in Heaven for such acts of faith.”
Adapted from a Shiur given by Rabbi Benjamin Yudin
Lech Lecha - A Test
by Avi Wollman
“And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great…” (12:2). Pirkei Avot describes how Avraham Avinu went through ten tests by Hashem over the course of his life. One of these tests is found in the first Pasuk of this week’s Parsha, “to pick up and go.” Rav Zweig asks why this commandment is considered a test. Hashem promises Avram fame, fortune and many children. Why should a person who is guaranteed fame, fortune, and children, have trouble leaving his home?
Rav Zweig answers this question by pointing out a difference between what is considered good for us and what is considered pleasurable for us. For instance, there is a difference between food that is good for us and food that is unhealthy but tastes good. So too, there is work and there is entertainment. Just like a person must choose between the food that he will eat, he must choose the proper actions to take. The main reason behind this dilemma is that pleasure is defined as any type of physical enjoyment. However, one must realize that the ultimate form of pleasure is really doing what is right. One gains the greatest type of satisfaction and pleasure from doing the right thing, and as a result the two choices merge into one. This is man’s greatest test; either going though life miserably because of unfulfilled wishes, or being happy because one knows he has done the right thing. This is the way that Hashem tests Avram. Hashem shows Avram that enjoying all the Mitzvot really leads to enjoying what is right. It is this idea that we must understand like Avram did, in order to fulfill what was promised to Avram, to become a Goy Gadol, a great nation.
by Oren Levy
In this week’s Parsha, Hashem promises to give the land of Israel to Avraham at the Brit Bein Habitarim. The Pasuk says, “On that day Hashem made a covenant with Avraham saying: to your children I have given this land from the river of Egypt until the great river, the Euphrates River…” (15:18-21). The amount of land specified in these Psukim is one huge amount. The land stretches from the Nile River in Egypt all the way to the Euphrates River in present day Iraq. However, in Perek 17 Pasuk 8, Hashem says at the Brit Milah, “and I will give to you and your children after you the land of your sojourns, the whole land of Canaan,” and we know from Parshat Noach that the borders of Eretz Canaan stretched from “Sidon (in Lebanon) going toward Gerar until Gaza going toward Sdom, Amorrah.” The boundary of Canaan described here matches the general area where our forefathers lived, “Eretz Migurecha” (17:7-8). The Avot traveled in the area between Beer Sheva and Gerar in the south and Shechem and Dan in the north. Furthermore, in Parshat Maasei, Hashem gives another definition of the borders of Eretz Yisrael. Hashem outlines the borders of Eretz Canaan; from the Mediterranean Sea until the Jordan River. How come in the Brit Bein HaBitarim, Hashem promises Avraham a different and much larger portion? Rav Menachem Leibtag suggests an answer, that we must explain the relationship between each Brit and its respective definition of the land.
Rav Leibtag suggests that the two Brittot correspond to two different levels of Kedusha, holiness. The Brit Milah corresponds to the religious and personal aspect of our nation’s relationship with Hashem, as it emphasizes an intimate relationship with Him. We see this when in the preparation for the Brit, Hashem changes Avram’s name to Avraham, promising him that He will establish and maintain a special relationship between Himself and Avraham’s children. In this Brit, the land is referred to as Eretz Canaan, the inheritance to Avraham’s children, is referred to instead as an “Achuza” and not a “Yerusha,” as by the Brit Bein Hab’tarim. So we see from this that there are two aspects to the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael. The “Kedushat Haaretz” by the Brit Bein Hab’tarim refers to the conquest of the land and to the establishment of a national entity. This Kedusha is only achieved once Bnei Yisrael establish complete sovereignty. On the other hand the “Kedushat Eretz Canaan,” the Kedusha of the Brit Milah is eternal. This Kedusha reflects Hashem’s presence over Eretz Yisrael even when other countries have control over it. This Kedusha is intrinsic and forever present. Once this area has been conquered, Bnei Yisrael have the option to take over the rest of the land promised in Brit Bein Habitarim. The demarcation for the borders described in this Brit could be a limit as to how far the land can go. However, this extra land isn’t intrinsically Kadosh, while the border described to Avraham in the Brit Milah is intrinsically Kadosh.
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