Parashat Lech Lecha
Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Regina Bat Simcha, Reggie Bailey A'H, by Her Family
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, successful 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. Rabbi Mansour brings down that the Ramban says our forefathers were unique in that their actions created templates for the rest of Jewish history. This is known as “Maaseh avot siman lebanim.” For example, he explains that just as Avraham went into the land of Israel and settled at Hai, years later Yehoshua’s first stop when he brought the people into Israel was Hai. Similarly, Avraham went to Egypt because of a famine, and G-d punished Pharaoh for taking Sarah, and then Avraham was released and sent away with gifts. Years later the sons of Yaakov went to Egypt due to a famine, and after being enslaved by Pharaoh they were set free with great wealth. Avraham created the templates for Jewish history. For this reason, it is important to carefully study the lives of the avot, and the templates they left for us, their descendants, so we may pass our tests as they did. 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 promised a reward for leaving his home. Hashem says, “And I will make you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” Rabbi Mansour brings down a question from the midrash. Why was “Lech Lecha” considered a more important test than the fire in Ur Casdin? Avraham was promised the entire future of B’nei Yisrael if he were to leave his home, but when he threw himself into a fiery furnace, his reward was not nearly as great. The answer, Rabbi Mansour comments, is because an open-ended test, day after day, is much harder. G-d commanded Avraham to move to Eretz Yisrael, where he was greeted with a severe famine, and from there he was required to leave to Egypt, where his wife was taken captive. Avraham experienced one challenge after the other, yet he did not utter one word of complaint. This test spanned years. And because it is harder to live a sacrifice, than to die in sacrifice, Hashem rewarded Avraham with great wealth and beracha, and a nation to carry on his legacy. Rabbi Frand continues, 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. Rabbi Mansour says the Mesilat Yesharim explains that we are tested every day, and the day-to-day tests we confront are difficult. Great people don’t only pass their momentary tests, but they excel day after day. Moments Like This Though we experience day-to-day “Lech Lecha tests,” there are also times where big challenges are thrown our way. A person who tackles big challenges with emunah and bitachon is extremely special. Rabbi Joey Haber told a story about a big rabbi in a yeshivah. The menahel—principal of the school saw one of his important rabbis walk out of a class he was teaching to make a phone call in the teachers’ room. He followed the rabbi to the lounge and overheard him speaking to the person on the phone. “Hi. Did you throw out the clothes? Okay. Did you take out the garbage? Oh, okay. Did the garbage truck come? Okay. I’ll see you later, bye.” After that, the rabbi returned to his class. When the class was over, the principal approached the rabbi, curious. “Can I ask what that phone call was about? It seemed very random, and you never leave class, so I want to make sure everything is good.” The rabbi apologized for leaving class and started to explain. “My daughter is getting married in two weeks, and I don’t have the means to make a wedding right now. I went to a gemach and took a loan for 50,000 shekels, and I hid it in the pants pocket of my old suit in my closet. As I was leaving the house this morning, my wife mentioned to me in passing that she would be going through the old clothes to throw them out, and I didn’t think anything of it. As I was in class teaching, it came to me. The money was in the pants. I called her right away to ask if she had thrown out the old clothes and if the garbage truck came yet, and she said yes. So I hung up and went back to class.” The principal said, “You hung up and went back to class?! You just lost this huge loan; what do you mean you went back to class!” The rabbi calmly explained, “I had a teacher when I was a young boy, and he always used to say this: ‘G-d put us on this earth for moments like this.’ So right when it happened, I said, ‘G-d put us on this earth for moments like this,’ and I went back to class. Big tests like this are the very reason for our existence. Our job is not only to endure them, but to learn and change because of them. 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.
However, because the test to leave was a day-to-day test, it is considered harder, because it’s open ended, and according to Rabbi Mansour, the open-endedness was the reason for Avraham’s great reward.
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.
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