Parshat Lech Lecha Vol.10 No.8

Date of issue: 13 Cheshvan 5761 -- November 11, 2000

This issue has been sponsored by the parents of the following students who were inducted into the National Honor Society on Friday:
Yaacov Apfelbaum, Jason Blass, Elly Buckman, Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Ariel Daube Jonathan Degani, Yoni Fox, Jonathan Frank, Elli Friedman, Yisrael Glassberg, Eli Grodko, Dani Gross, Tzvi Kahn, Avi Levine, Adam Rosenbaum, Yakir Schechter, Ari Schwarzberg, Eliezer Shaffren, Avi Shinnar, Yehuda Turetsky, Shimi Weiss, Harrison Whitman, Craig Yagoda

How to sponsor

This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Joel Grossman
Elly Buckman
Yoni Fox
Avi Srulowitz
David Gertler
Rabbi Howard Jachter
*Making Tea on Shabbat*
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
-by *Dani Gross and Avi-Gil Chaitovsky*

Avraham - The Knight of Faith
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

The Parsha opens with Hashem's commanding Avram to leave his land, his birthplace, and his father's house to go to the land that Hashem will show him. All of the commentaries view this as one of the ten tests given to Avraham, as stated in the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (5:4). Rashi comments on the command of Lech Lecha, "Go for yourself," that the leaving would be for Avram's benefit since his blessings could be fulfilled not in the land he was in at that time but in Eretz Canaan. Rashi explains that the blessings were that Avram would have children, wealth, and fame only if he followed Hashem's instructions and traveled to this unknown destination. Rashi notes that since the things included in the blessings are usually decreased by travel, the blessings were necessary to motivate Avram.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in Darash Moshe, asks how this can be viewed as a test. Everyday people who are involved in certain businesses travel far with the hope of making money, and it is often doubtful if they will be successful, yet we do not view their travels as a test. Rather, we say that this is what their business requires. In Avram's case, Hashem actually promised him that he would be wealthy if he went to the new place. Perhaps this is not a test but a promise?

Rav Moshe answers that the test was whether Avram would question Hashem by saying, "If Hashem is so powerful, why does He need me to travel to receive the blessings? He could have given them to me right here without any trouble or bother!" Since Avram did not ask any questions, simply obeyed the command of Hashem, and left his homeland for this destination, he was worthy of the blessings of children, wealth, and fame.

This phenomenon of Avraham accepting whatever Hashem dealt him both here and at the Akeida explains the essence of Avraham. We start Shemoneh Esrei by declaring Hashem the God of each of our forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, but we conclude the blessing only with Avraham, because he embodied accepting whatever Hashem did as perfect and correct.

Throughout Sefer Bereishit, Ramban writes Maaseh Avot Siman Labanim, the actions of our forefathers is a sign to their children, to explain why the Torah, which is a book of laws, tells us the stories of our ancestors. We must learn this message of the test of Lech Lecha very well and try to internalize it so we, too, can accept everything Hashem does for us individually and as a nation as just and correct and never come to question why He does something that does not make sense to us. If we can change our thought patterns to emulate that of Avraham Avinu, we will become closer to Hashem and hopefully fulfill His commandments properly. Then we too will merit to be blessed with children, wealth, and fame; something many people are striving for.

by Elly Buckman

In this week's Parsha, we see Avram become the first person in his generation to accept Hashem as his only God. Before this point, all the people of the world had worshipped idols and believed that many gods ruled the world. Rabbi Abraham Twersky asks how it is possible that others did not realize the absurdity of idolatry. To answer this question, Rav Twersky says one should notice that Avraham was known for exemplifying the trait of Chessed. What is the connection between these two concepts? If someone decides to worship a man-made god, which requires minimal work, it shows that he does not want to commit himself to becoming the type of person that has a set of morals befitting a worshipper of the true God. However, if someone is able to act morally, he shows a willingness to put his own desires aside and to act in a way that may be less comfortable for him but nonetheless moral.

We see this on a greater scale when Avraham is willing to sacrifice Yitzchak. Obviously Avraham reached the level that allowed him to focus exclusively on that which Hashem told him to do. The lesson of this Parsha, Rav Twersky asserts, is that not all idol worshippers necessarily bow down to these idols. Anyone who puts his own desires before the will of Hashem can indeed be categorized as an idolater. Although this may seem frightening, it is comforting to know that this works both ways: if one puts the will of Hashem before his own will (as illustrated here by the Chessed of Avraham), he can be considered, at least in this sense, to be on the level of Avraham in terms of proper devotion directed towards the right cause. This is clearly something that we all must learn as a fundamental requirement for proper commitment to Hashem.

by Yoni Fox

In the first Pasuk of this week's Parsha, Hashem tells Avram, Lech Lecha Me'artzecha. Rashi comments, Lehanatecha Uletovotcha, Hashem is telling Avram to go for his own benefit; if he complies, he will be greatly blessed, but if he chooses not to go, he will not be blessed. If Avram goes for his own benefit, why is this considered one of the ten Nisyonot (tests) with which Hashem tested Avram?

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in Darash Moshe, deals with this question. He answers that the real test was not whether Avram would go; rather, it was whether he would have second thoughts. It is very hard to act upon a command whose logic cannot be seen. Avram could have easily asked why Hashem could not just grant him the blessing in his current location without him having to go through the trouble of moving. However, Avram went without ever having second thoughts, thereby showing his true faith in Hashem.

This same concept presents itself again to Avraham when Hashem promises Avraham that Yitzchak will become a great nation and then contradicts Himself by commanding Avraham to slaughter Yitzchak. Even though this too, seemed illogical, Avraham wholeheartedly brought Yitzchak to be slaughtered, without any second thoughts. This again shows Avram's complete faith in Hashem, which is why he was chosen as the father of Klal Yisrael.

A Lesson in Faith
by Avi Srulowitz

This week's Parsha opens with the Pasuk, Voyomer Hashem El Avram Lech Lecha Me'artzecha Umimoladtecha Umibait Avicha El Haaretz Asher Areka, "Hashem said to Avram, 'Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you.'" Rashi comments on the words Lech Lecha that it was Lehanatecha Uletovotcha, "for his benefit." Rashi then comments on the words Asher Areka that Hashem did not tell Avram where he was going in order to make it precious in Avram's eyes and give it to Avram as a reward.

Rav Yaakov Kaniefsky (the Steipler), in Birchat Peretz, learns from the second statement of Rashi that if Hashem had immediately told Avram to which land he was going, he would not have received all of the reward. The Steipler explains that had Avram been aware of what was coming to him, his fulfillment of Hashem's command would not have been totally for the sake of Heaven; his own desire to receive a reward would have interfered with his desire to serve Hashem. Since Avram did not know which land he was to receive, his travels were based totally on faith in Hashem and not on his own desires. His travels were for the sole purpose of fulfilling Hashem's command and therefore he was able to receive his full reward.

A similar idea is seen in various other Sefarim. Based on Rashi's comment on the phrase Lech Lecha, Avram knew that he was going to receive a reward for his fulfillment of Hashem's command. The test of Avram was not whether he would leave his home, but whether he would do it for himself or for Hashem. Based on 12:4, it appears that Avram passed the test, as the Pasuk states: Vayelech Avram Kaasher Diber Eilav Hashem. Avram fulfilled the commandment not for his own benefit, but because he was commanded to do so by Hashem.

Pass or Fail?
by David Gertler

Pirkei Avot 5:4 states that Avraham was given 10 tests, each of which he passed. According to most countings, two of the tests are in Perek 12. One is the command to Avram to leave Charan and go to Canaan, and the other is that soon after he got to Canaan a famine forced him to leave and go to Mitzrayim.

As Avram and his wife Sarai were nearing Mitzrayim, Avram told Sarai to claim that she was his sister not his wife. When they do this, the Mitzrim take Sarai and give her to Paroh as a wife.

Three incidents like this one are recorded in Sefer Bereishit, and each time the king gets upset and claims that he would never have taken the woman if he knew she was already married. The first time is here, the second is with Avimelech in Perek 20, and the third time is with Rivka and Avimelech in Perek 26.

There are two different ways to look at the Avot and other figures in Tanach. One is to view them as perfect and to view each of their actions as righteous and wise. The other view is that while these people were great Tzaddikim, they were still human and sometimes made mistakes. According to the Ramban, the actual test was how Avram would treat Sarai in Mitzrayim, and the Ramban believes that Avram failed this test. Avram should have said that Sarai was his wife, but he put his own life first instead and did not have enough trust in Hashem.

How can we view this story today? According to Halacha, it is better to die than to engage in adultery, and Avram was putting Sarai in a situation where she would likely be forced to engage in adultery with Paroh. However, Rav Hirsch defends Avram: by saying that Sarai was his sister, Avram hoped to prolong the time before Paroh slept with Sarai, and perhaps this would give Avram time to come up with another plan.

There is a powerful lesson to be learned either way. According to Rav Hirsch, we are required to delay bad events because we may find ways to circumvent them. According to the Ramban, one should keep his wife close to him and must put his wife's honor before his own life.

Halacha of the Week
We are forbidden to believe any Lashon Hara we may have been told due to concern that the victim will be denigrated in our eyes (Chafetz Chaim chapter six).

Food for Thought
by Dani Gross and Avi-Gil Chaitovsky

1) According to Rashi (15:2), Avram married Hagar because Sarai told him to through Ruach Hakodesh. Sarai tells Avram in 15:5 that she had erred in telling Avram to marry Hagar. How could she have erred if she spoke through Ruach Hakodesh?

2) Rashi says that the Chumash gives Avram's age when Yishmael is born (86, see 16:16) to praise Yishmael because he was thirteen at the time of his Brit Mila. Why, then, is it necessary for the Chumash to explicitly state that Yishmael was thirteen at the age of his Brit Mila in 17:25 if we are told that Avram was 99 (17:1)?

3) In the story of the battle between the four kings and five kings, we are told the names of only eight of the nine kings. Why does the king of Bela remain nameless?

4) After Hagar is sent away, an angel tells her that she will have a son and name him Yishmael (16:11). However, upon the birth of her son, it seems that Avram is the one who names him (16:15). How did Avram know to name the boy Yishmael?

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.

Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editors: Moshe Glasser, Zevi Goldberg
Publication Editor: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Zev Feigenbaum, Shuky Gross, Michael Humphrey, Binyamin Kagedan, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter, Yechiel Shaffer, Gil Stein
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

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