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Home » Lech L'cha

Lech Lecha: Food for Thought At Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on October 11, 2007 – 10:19 pmNo Comment | 2,522 views

Sunday: Self Discovery

Abraham could not truly discover his true nature till he divested himself from all outside influence. Till G-d instructed him to, “Go to you, from your land, your birthplace and your father’s home.”

We are largely influenced by three factors. The atmosphere and climate into which we are born. The culture and attitudes of the friends that surround us. The family that loves us. As long as we remain under the influence of our original culture, friends and family, we cannot know how we might respond under different circumstances. Once we strike out on our own, we discover our true nature.

Before becoming the father of the Jewish people Abraham had to step away from all three influencing factors. His land, whose climate and atmosphere he absorbed. His birthplace, whose culture and friendships had nurtured him. His father’s home, the bosom of his family’s love. Only then could he become himself –  determine who he was and discover his true nature. Malbim & Kli Yakar.

Monday:  Internal Beauty

Abraham said to his wife, “Behold, I now know that you are a beautiful woman.” Did Abraham only now discover that his wife was beautiful? Had he never looked at her before they arrived to Egypt?

The veil that a bride wears during the marriage ceremony serves, among other things, as a deceleration on the part of the groom: I know my bride is beautiful, but it is not for her external beauty that I love her and marry her, it is for her inner beauty – her character and her personality.

The same can be said of Abraham. He knew of Sarah’s beauty, but he never took note of it. After all, it was not for her external beauty that he had “married her. However, now that they were entering Egypt, a land of immoral behavior, he was forced to take note of her beauty in order to protect her. Hence his words, I now know that you are beautiful. Taam Vadaat.

Tuesday: Mistaken Identity

Abraham said to Lot, “Let There be no quarrel between us for we are bothers. Let us part. If you go left I shall go right, if you go right I shall go left.” At first Abraham insists that they are brothers then, in the same sentence, he insists that they part ways. Are these the words of a brother?

Abraham and Lot was not talking about a brotherhood of piety, but of appearance. Lot was absolutely identical to Abraham and because of this Abraham wanted to part with him. Abraham was concerned that if they had remained together people would confused them. When Lot would sin, some might think it was Abraham, assume that such behavior is pious and proceed to emulate it. Ktav Sofer.

Wednesday: What does “Hebrew” Mean?

Abraham is the first Jew to be called, “Ivry,” Hebrew.

Abraham was called Ivri for two reasons. Ivri, a descendant of Ever, the son of Shem, son of Noah. Ivry, from the other Ever. Ever means a side. Abraham came to Israel from the other side of Euphrates River. It was only after Abraham arrived to Israel that the Torah referred to him as Ivri because here he was an immigrant, arrived from the other side of the river.

In a deeper sense, Abraham stood on the other side of the moral divide. The people of his generation were decadent and depraved. Abraham was pious and righteous. They therefore called him the Ivry, the man from the other side. Yet it is the nature of a river that it connects its two shores. In s similar sense, Abraham overcame the divide between himself and his compatriots and shared the message of Torah with them. Rashi and Radak.

Thursday: Right on Time

After Abraham defeated the great kings in war G-d appeared to him and proclaimed, “Fear not Abraham, I shall protect you.” G-d’s seems to have been a little tardy with his assurance. The war was over and Abraham how triumphed, why he would he require protection at this time?

Abraham went to war with implicit trust in G-d. He believed his cause was righteous and was absolutely confident that G-d would protect him. It was after the battle that fear first set in He knew that his victory was a reward for his meritorious deeds and he worried that with this reward his merits had been depleted.

The thought that he might have exchanged immortal reward for temporal reward, terrified him. G-d therefore assured him that he had no cause to fear. “Your reward shall be exceedingly great” The assurance was not belated. On the contrary, it was right on time. Rashi.

Friday: Perfection

Just before instructing Abraham to circumcise himself G-d told him to, “Walk before me and become perfect.” Why would circumcision deem Abraham perfect? On the contrary, would not the removal of his foreskin form a permanent blemish on his body?

Judaism teaches that the physical is incapable of perfection. Even in it’s healthiest and most complete state, the physical is  not perfect. Only G-d is perfect. Humans are, by definition, incapable of perfection unless they are attached to G-d.

Circumcision is our covenant with G-d. Removing the foreskin is an acknowledgment that gives physical expression to the body’s innate imperfection. It is a declaration that complete as my body may be, I cannot be perfect till I attach myself to G-d. Hence G-d instruction to Abraham, “Walk before me and (then you shall) become perfect.” Sefat Emet.

Shabbat: A New Son

When G-d informed Abraham that he would have a son, Abraham fell on his face and said, “Shall a child be born to a one-hundred year old man?” Abraham proceeded to petition G-d for a blessing for his son Ishmael. G-d assured him that he would indeed father another son and proceeded to bless Ishmael as well. This is a curious exchange. Abraham, the great believer, scoffed at G-d’s promise?

Abraham did not scoff, he simply misunderstood. When G-d spoke of a son, Abraham first understood  that Sarah would give birth to a son. He then fell on his face in self reproach. How could you think it would be a new child, he scolded himself, “Shall a child be born to a one-hundred year old man and to Sarah at the age of Ninety?” G-d was surely talking about his son Ishmael.

Abraham then reinterpreted G-d’s words as a promise that Ishmael would greatly improve his ways to the extent that he would seem like a new son.

Whereupon G-d replied that he was indeed talking about Sarah who give birth to a son, who shall be named Isaac. As to Ishmael, concluded G-d, I have heard you and I will bless him too. Torat Moshe (R. Moshe Sofer)