Perashat Lech Lecha
Dedicated for a Refuah Shelema for Chana bat Pessel by the Harari Family
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 along with his family was responsible for repopulating the world. As noted in the 5th perek of Pirke Avot (5:3) “There were ten generations from Noah to Avraham-to show the degree of His patience; for all those generations angered Hashem increasingly, until our forefather Avraham came and received the reward of them all”.
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 is the one that 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 have been faced with throughout the centuries is through the Zechut that we received from being descendants of Avraham. Avraham had just passed the test of walking into the fire in Ur Casdin, and this made Avraham very popular from this event and then Hashem spoke to him and told him to leave Haran to “Lech Lecha”.
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. It was an important test because Avraham at this time was at his peak! Lech Lecha's numerical value adds up to 100, which is also the age at which Avraham had his son Yitzchak. The promise that Hashem will make Avraham a great nation could only happen when Avraham and Sarah would have their son Yitzchak which they ultimately had but not until they were at an advanced old age.
Imagine if we were faced with the test of ‘Lech Lecha’ today and forced to leave our homes, our community and our country to then live in a foreign land with a different language and everything else also foreign to us. 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”. That same test of picking up and leaving the place where we were born still exists today, as many people have made that sacrifice over the years going back to the early part of the 20th century. Many Jews escaped Russia to start a new home in what was then called Palestine and then in the mid 1940’s, after the Holocaust, many fled to Israel to help fight for its independence. Since the 1980s many of our brothers from Syria and Egypt were forced to leave those countries, and they made Aliyah to Israel. Now, many years later, the trend continues as Jews from the United States and all over the world are making the sacrifice to make Aliyah and relocate their families to Israel.
Avraham set the precedent for our tests. When Avraham is instructed to sacrifice his son Yitzchak, 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 to convert or be killed. The tests that Avraham endured planted these seeds in each and every one of us so we would be able to meet the challenges of today’s world.
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 us and for our own benefit, and their purpose is to help us grow and better ourselves. We may not be told to sacrifice our child but we are tested with 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. It can also be 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 our girls a bat Yisrael. We must also be committed to sacrifice some of our conveniences because of our convictions, which includes keeping kosher at all costs and keeping our daily mitzvot.
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 the second Pasuk, “And I will make you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing," Avraham is greeted 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 financial problems etc, without questioning Hashem's will. These tests are not glamorous or exciting, they're not tests that people will talk about as great tests, but they are no less challenging as we live 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 and these tests can come in many different forms. There’s a story is of a boy who was learning in a yeshivah in Israel and no matter how many dates he went on, he couldn't find a girl to marry. The main reason was that he had a disfiguring scar on one side of his face. This was a tremendous test for him, as no one wanted to go on a second date with him. Finally, he went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky for a Beracha and Rav Chaim told him to just go on another date and with the with the next girl he goes out with, he should be up front and tell her all about the scar right away instead of letting her discover it on her own.
So on the next date, he immediately told his date that one day when he was leaving the yeshivah and it was dark out, he heard screaming from behind the bushes, so he ran to see who was screaming and he encountered a man attacking a woman. When he popped out of nowhere and startled the attacker, the attacker got scared and slashed the student’s face with his knife, leaving him with a long scar on one side of his face. The victim was so shocked, frightened and disoriented, she just got up and ran away to safety. Then after hearing this story in amazement, the girl replied, “So you’re the one who saved my life that dark winter night! I've been looking for you!" They were married soon after!
May we all understand and appreciate the tests that Hashem gives so we may realize that while we are being tested, our objective should always be to grow from these tests so that we can become closer to Hashem. Avraham taught us never to doubt Hashem because he believed as we do that Hashem truly runs the world. Thus we can help our children and others who are younger than us to understand the benefit of life's tests and see them as a good thing that will help us grow while overcoming our Lech Lechatests!
Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of
Rabbi Amram Sananes
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Malka Bat Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Shulamit Bat Helaina Meir Ben Latifa
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Esther Bat Sarah
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Yitzchak Ben Adele Rafael Ben Miriam
Chanah Bat Esther Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal
Avraham Ben Garaz Ovadia Ben Yosef
Yaakov Ben Rachel
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