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Parashat Lech Lecha

Dedicated Le'ilui Nishmat Yaakov Ben Rena by Morris Cohen

Parashat 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 Noach and his family. Hashem then waited another ten generations after Noach, who along with his family was responsible for repopulating the world. It is noted in Pirke Avot “There were ten generations from Noach 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 (5:3).”

Lech Lecha

Now in this week's parashat Lech Lecha, we encounter the beginning of the Jewish nation with Avraham Avinu. Avraham was the first person who, despite 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 passuk “Vayomer Hashem el Avram, Lech Lecha me’artzecha u’me’moladetcha u’me’beit avicha el ha’aretz asher arecha—And Hashem said to Avram, go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.” During the course of this parasha, Avraham goes through a series of tests that Hashem put him through. These tests prove his allegiance to G-d, which ultimately plant the seeds for us. The only way the Jewish people have been able to pass the tests that we faced throughout the centuries is through the strength and DNA that we have from Avraham Avinu! As soon as Avraham passed the incredible test of walking into the fire in Ur Casdin, Hashem told him to leave his homeland Haran to “ha’aretz asher arecha.”

The first passuk starts off with the double lashon of "Lech Lecha", which literally means, “Go for yourself.” Rashi comments on the passuk: “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 from his father’s house was considered one of his ten tests. It was an important test because Avraham was at his peak in popularity, having just survived the fire in Ur Casdin. The numerical value of Lech Lecha 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 with the passing of this test.

Imagine if we were faced with the test of “Lech Lecha” today, to have to pick up and leave our homes, our community and our country to then live in a foreign land with different languages and unfamiliar surroundings. This in fact is a test that so many of our people have experienced when they had to leave their homes and their birth countries throughout our history. From the time of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash over 2,000 years ago, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the Holocaust, and to the Middle Eastern migration wave of 1980, the Jewish people have been dealing with the test of “Lech Lecha” for centuries. Now the trend continues in a more positive way as Jews from the United States and all over the world are making the sacrifice to make aliyah as they relocate their families to Israel.

Tests and Sacrifices

Avraham set the precedent for our tests. When Avraham is instructed by Hashem to make the most difficult sacrifice of his son Yitzchak, the theme of self-sacrifice is introduced to us. 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 and passed without fail planted these seeds in 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 test us? A test is something that Hashem gives to every person without exceptions. These tests are tailor-made for each person and for his own benefit, and the main purpose is to help one grow and better himself. We may not be told to sacrifice our child, but there is no shortage of “everyday” tests. Rabbi Frand describes everyday tests as “Lech Lecha tests.” For instance, modern day tests could be the Internet, social media, or the immorality of our society today. Another test is making sure that we put our children in the proper yeshivah so that our sons can become b’nei Torah and our girls b’not Yisrael. We must also be committed to sacrifice some of our conveniences to keep Shabbat and the kashrut laws at all costs.

Avraham is then promised, “And I will make you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” Soon after, Avraham is greeted with a severe famine in the land, yet he does not utter a word of complaint. From this we learn that the meaning of “Lech Lecha tests” is dealing with the daily grind of suffering health issues, bringing up children, and managing financial problems all without questioning Hashem's will. These tests are not glamorous or exciting, but they are no less challenging for us as we live through them. The true sign of a great person is how one handles the everyday challenges of life, his “Lech Lecha tests!”

Sometimes in life we face challenges and frustrate ourselves in our struggle to overcome what stands in our way. But with a simple adjustment in our viewpoint, we can embrace our difficulties – instead of trying to do away with them. We can realize how much better we will become and grow through these very tests or challenges.

Ivri - Standing Up for One’s Beliefs

Standing up for one’s beliefs amidst challenges is the very essence of what a Jew is. Avraham Avinu was the founding father of the Jewish people. He was known as Avraham Ha'ivri. Ivri comes from the word ever, which could translate to opposite side. The whole world was involved in idolatry during his time, and he was willing to stand on the other side and stay strong according to his beliefs and the truth of Hashem and Torah.

There’s a story Rabbi Yoel Gold told of a young soldier who was training for Shayetet 13, the most elite combat unit in the Israeli Defense Forces, and the world. In order to get into this unit, grueling work is required. One of the final tests was an exhausting task of proving survival skills. Soldiers would hike 40 miles with 40 pounds on their backs, without drinking water for a full day. This boy was making his way up the ranks, and his life's dream was to get into Shayetet 13. He was religious, and the test started before dawn.

As he noticed the sun making its way up, he said to his officer, “Can we stop just for a minute, I have to put on my tefillin.” The officer said to him, “Not now, maybe soon, just a little while longer,” and they kept going. After another hour he asked again, “Please Sir, I want to stop for one moment just to put on my tefillin.” The officer said to him, “Kid, not now, you're leading the pack, and we have to keep going.” Again, a few hours later the young soldier said, “Please, Sir. I never missed a day of tefillin in my life, please let me stop for one minute. I can only put them on until nightfall.” The commander did not allow him to stop. Nightfall was rapidly approaching. With only had a few minutes left, the soldier declared, “Mefaked (officer), I need to stop.”

The officer turned around and said, “You want to stop? You want to give up all your years of training? For tefillin? My friend, right now you have a good chance of making it into this elite unit. It not going to look good if you fall behind now.” Without thinking much the boy said, “OK that’s fine. I have to stop.” The unit kept walking without him. The young soldier sat down, took out his tefillin, slowly wrapped it on his arm, and watched as soldier by soldier walked by him, watched his opportunity to become next elite combat soldier pass him by. The boy prayed, “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokenu Hashem Echad.”

He put his tefillin away and saw his Mefaked standing in front of him, waiting. He said, “Welcome to Shayetet 13. Congratulations.” The soldier was at a loss, not understanding why he passed if he did not complete the test. The Mefaked responded, “Who would you want standing behind you up in the field, someone who is willing to give up everything he believes in, or someone who stays strong even under great pressure?”

Count the Stars

Rabbi Frand points out that later in this parasha, Avraham questions G-d, “What can You give me? I am childless.” G-d answers by promising Avraham that he will have children. Hashem directs Avraham outside and asks him to look up and count the stars, saying “Thus will be your descendants (15:2-5).” Rav Meir Shapiro asks an important question. What would be our reaction if someone told us to count the stars? We would probably ignore it. It’s an impossible task, so why bother attempting? Avraham did no such thing, he went outside and counted the stars! Hashem responded, “Thus will be your descendants.” Not only was Avraham rewarded with children for making an effort to do the impossible, his children and descendants would be blessed with the same quality. “Thus will be your descendants” is interpreted as “This is how your descendants will be!”

The Jewish people have a quality unlike any other nation. We look above nature to the stars, and we count them. We try the impossible. And we are rewarded with the impossible. We, as Avraham’s descendants, put our faith in Hashem and believe in the miracles of Hashgacha Peratit. Many times, those who are ill and pray to Hashem miraculously recover. Those who have financial issues and stop working on Shabbat can suddenly pay their bills and draw a profit.

In this week’s haftarah, there is a passuk that says, “Kovei Hashem yaclifu koach—those that place trust in Hashem will be endowed with strength.” How fitting for this parasha. B’nei Yisrael is a nation of impossible strength. They survived and thrived longer than any other nation in the world. They are the children of Avraham, who looked to count the stars when Hashem asked him to.

May we all understand and appreciate the tests that Hashem gives and realize that though we are being tested, our objective should always be to react properly, by growing and becoming closer to Hashem. Avraham Avinu taught us never to doubt Hashem because Hashem truly runs the world. May we help our children and younger generations understand the benefit of life's tests—to see our “Lech Lecha tests” as a good thing that will ultimately help us grow.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Points

  • Although it’s difficult in today’s day in age, do we always stand up for our Torah values even when the world is against us?


  • Hashem told Avraham to leave his home, “Lech Lecha—Go for yourself.” This language was used, because Hashem’s test of Lech Lecha would ultimately be for the benefit of Avraham.

  • The test of Lech Lecha was one in a series of difficult tests that Avraham faced during his lifetime. Considering the struggle of Akedat Yitzchak, this test was comparatively immaterial, and Rabbi Frand coined the term “Lech Lecha tests” to refer to our everyday challenges.

  • Avraham Avinu was called Ivri, from the word ever—opposite side, because he stood up for his belief in the emmet of Hashem and Torah when the rest of the world stood against him.

  • When Hashem asked Avraham to count the stars, Avraham sought to do the impossible and started to count. Hashem rewarded him with children, and Avraham’s children possess the very quality of trying hard and believing in Hashem’s “impossible” miracles.

Le’ilui Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

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