Perashat Lech Lecha

At the end of last week’s Parasha, we learned how Hashem decided to destroy the world through a Mabul with the exception of Noah and his family. Hashem then waited another 10 generations after Noah, who survived the Mabul and was responsible for repopulating the world. Now in this week's Parasha, Lech Lecha, we encounter the beginning of the Jewish nation through Avraham Avinu. Avraham was the first person who, in spite of growing up in a world of idolatry, recognized that an Omnipotent G-d runs the world. This Parasha opens with the Pasuk: "Vayomer Amonai el Avram, Lech Lecha me’artzecha u’me’moladetcha u’me’beit avicha el ha’aretz asher arecha". “And Hashem said to Abram, Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.” Avraham will go through a series of tests that Hashem will put him through. These tests will prove his allegiance to G-d,which will ultimately lay the seeds for us. The only way we have been able to pass the tests that we've faced through the centuries is through the zechut that we received from the genes that Avraham implanted in us. The reason for this, we can find in the first pasuk of parashat Noach, where it says ..."Noach walked with G-d". Rashi comments on this that Noach walked with G-d and regarding Avraham it says "Walk before me". Rashi continues that Noach needed support to bear him up, but Avraham would strengthen himself and walk in his righteousness on his own. As Rabbi Sananes taught us and to make a simple analogy of this, its as if you have 2 children and one child needs some more help and attention but the other child is more self sufficient and can support himself on his own. This then is the reason why Avraham is the father of the Jewish people. The first Pasuk starts off with the double lashon of "Lech Lecha", which literally means, "Go for yourself". Rashi comments on the Pasuk: "Go because I commanded you but also go for yourself, because in the end, you will see that it will be good for you!" Avraham's exodus from his land, from his community and finally from his father’s house was considered one of his ten tests. Ramban lists it as the number one test that Avraham will endure. Lech Lecha's numerical value adds up to 100, which is also the age that Avraham had his son Yitzchak. The promise that Hashem will make Avraham a great nation could not happen and was very much part of the test of Lech Lecha if Avraham and Sarah didn't have their son Yitzchak which ultimately occurred at their advanced old age. Imagine if we were faced with the test of Lech Lecha and forced to leave our homes our community and our country to go live in a foreign land with a different language and everything that's foreign to us. Well, this is in fact a test that so many of our people have experienced involuntarily throughout our history. From the time of the Destruction of the Temple over 2,000 years ago, the Jewish people have been dealing with the test of “Lech Lecha”. We were expelled by the Greeks and the Romans, then from Spain and other parts of Europe, and most recently from Syria in the 1990s. It is an incredible test that we never want to experience but unfortunately we have not had a say in the matter. Although we had to endure all of these expulsions, we always made the best of it, and what is most important is that we always brought our Torah and our Judaism with us. That alone is what saved us wherever we traveled and was responsible for our success, over a relatively short period of time, in a new and foreign country. Avraham set the precedent for our tests. When Avraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac, the theme of self-sacrifice is introduced. Though we are forbidden to sacrifice our children, we may be called upon to sacrifice our lives for Hashem. In the time of the Crusades Jews were killed for refusing to convert to Christianity. The Jews of Spain were forced to sacrifice their lives in the Spanish Inquisition, where the choice was convert or be killed. Only 75 years ago, we had the Holocaust. The Nazis’ goal was to rid the world of Jews, whether they were religious or not. The tests that Avraham endured planted the seeds in each and every one of us to be able to succeed and pass our tests of today. So what are our tests today and why does Hashem have to test us? A test is something that Hashem gives each and every one of us. These tests are tailor-made for our benefit and its purpose is to help us grow and better ourselves. We may not be told to sacrifice our child but we are tested with the everyday tests. As Rabbi Frand puts it, these everyday tests are all "Lech Lecha tests". A Lech Lecha test may be deciding whether to get up on time in the morning for Minyan. Or when you come home from work exhausted and you have to decide whether to help your son with his homework or instead tell him, "Do it yourself, because I'm tired and busy checking my emails." Another test is making sure that we put our children in the proper Yeshivah so that our sons can become a ben Torah or for our girls to become a bat Yisrael. We must also be committed to sacrifice some of our conveniences because of our convictions, this includes keeping kosher at all costs and keeping our daily mitzvot from the Torah. We would not consider these tests as defining moments on the level of Akeidat Yitzhak, Avraham's test of sacrificing his son Isaac. However, we see that after Avraham is promised, in Pasuk 2 of this week’s Parasha , "And I will make you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing," he meets with a severe famine in the land. Yet he does not utter a word of complaint. From this we learn that “Lech Lecha” is the test of dealing with the daily grind of health issues, bringing up our children and of financial problems etc, without questioning Hashem's will. These tests are not glamorous or exciting, they are not tests that people will talk about as great tests, but they are no less challenging as we go through them. The true indication of a great person is how he or she handles the everyday challenges of life, the “Lech Lecha tests”! Life is one big test, in fact. A friend of mine recently told me of the test he was challenged with over twenty years ago while he was dating his future wife. She asked him about the fact that although he didn't work on Shabbat, he kept his stores open on Shabbat with a non-Jewish manager in charge. She wanted to know if he would ever consider speaking to a rabbi about closing his stores entirely on Shabbat? So he took her advice and spoke to a rabbi and within a few months, he decided to close his stores totally on Shabbat, which is a big test for a retailer. He made the calculation that he would be losing the 52 days of Shabbat along with all the Yom Tov days. It added up to a potential loss of a lot of business. But my friend put his Emunah with Hashem and accepted the challenge of this test by closing his stores as he agreed to do. I asked him, "What happened with your business that year?" He told me with excitement that he actually doubled his business that next year while being closed on Shabbat and all the holidays. His business continued to climb from then on, in defiance of all logic. As Hashem says, "Lech Lecha", go for yourself, because you'll see, it will be good for you! May we all appreciate the tests that Hashem gives us and realize while we are being tested, that our objective should be to grow from those tests so that we can become closer to Hashem. The tests Hashem gives us are to help us grow because if we are not going up as we grow spiritually, then we're going down! As Avraham taught us to never doubt Hashem because he believed as we do that Hashem truly runs the world as we have witnessed this past week in our elections. Thus we can help our children and others who are younger than us to understand the benefit of life's tests as a good thing to help us grow while overcoming adversity! Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam