Lech Lecha
 


Parshat Vayera          8 MarCheshvan 5765              October 23, 2004              Vol.14 No.6


In This Issue:

Mr. Ezra Frazer

Dov Rossman

Etan Bluman

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter

 

 

Covenental Blessings
by Mr. Ezra Frazer

In this week's Parsha, we read about two monumental covenants between God and Avraham. In addition, the Parsha opens with additional blessings that God promises Avraham, also somewhat in the form of a covenant. If we pay close attention to the Torah's language throughout Sefer Bereshit, we can see that these covenants greatly impact later developments in the Torah.
At the beginning of Lech Lecha, we are struck by the depiction of Avraham's descendants as a great and mighty nation: "And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you I will curse, and all the nations of the land shall bless themselves by you" (12:3). However, in this initial blessing, we learn very little about the Promised Land. God assures Avraham that He will show him this land, but Avraham has not yet merited knowing its identity. Moreover, the spiritual dimension is quite lacking in this blessing. The verse "And I will bless those who bless you.and all the nations. shall bless themselves by you," although it sounds spiritual, essentially focuses on the awe with which other nations will regard Avraham's descendants; other nations will admire their might and fear becoming their enemies. This verse gives no indication of whether Avraham's descendants will feel a deep connection with God.
By the middle of Lech Lecha, though, we get a greater sense of what God has in mind for Avraham's progeny. At the end of Perek 15, they are promised the Holy Land in the Brit Bein Habetarim. There, God specifies precisely which land they will inherit (see verses 18-21), and he appears to provide a moral basis for this covenant. Rather than simply promising that Avraham's descendants will inherit this land, God goes out of His way to emphasize that events will develop in accordance with His sense of justice. Those who enslave the Jews will be punished, and the original occupants of Canaan will not be forced off of their land until their own sins earn them this punishment. Implicit in these statements is the assumption that Avraham's descendants must act in a manner that befits the beneficiaries of this covenant. However, Avraham and his descendants have still not received any commandments as a sign of their unique relationship with God, nothing to which they must adhere in order to merit the fulfillment of Brit Bein Habetarim.
Finally, at the end of Lech Lecha, Avraham is ordered to circumcise his entire household, and he is promised in return, "Vahakimoti Et Beriti Beini Uveinecha.Livrit Olam: Lihyot Lecha Leilokim, Ulzaracha Acharecha," "I will establish my covenant between Me and you, and between your offspring after you for their generations, as a permanent covenant: to be a God to you, and to your children after you" (17:7). At long last, Avraham has learned of a concrete action by which he and his descendants can affirm their commitment to their relationship with God.
Throughout the rest of Bereshit, we see these distinct stages reappearing individually. For example, Yaakov "steals" our Parsha's opening blessing of tremendous might: "Yaavducha Amim, Veyishtachavu Lecha Leumim.Orerecha Arur, Umvarechecha Baruch," "Nations will serve you, and governments will bow to you. those who curse you [will be] cursed, and those who bless you [will be] blessed" (27:29). Yitzchak intended for Eisav to receive this blessing, which would not have precluded a similar blessing for Yaakov. (Indeed, even after Yaakov "steals" this blessing, we find Eisav receiving a blessing of prosperity as the weaker brother in 27:39-40). However, after Yitzchak realizes what has happened and Rivka again reminds him of Eisav's intermarriage (27:46), Yitzchak wholeheartedly offers Yaakov the spiritual blessing of Brit Milah (28:3-4): "Vekeil Shakai Yevarech Otcha, Veyafrecha Veyarbecha, Vehayita Likhal Amim. Veyiten Lecha Et Birkat Avraham, Lecha Ulzaracha Itach - Lerishtecha Et Eretz Megurecha, Asher Natan Elokim Le'avraham," "And may Keil Shakai bless you, make you fruitful and make you numerous, and may you be a congregation of peoples. And may He give you the blessing of Avraham, to you and to your offspring with you - that you may inherit the land of your wanderings, that God gave to Avraham."
God Himself reiterates the blessing of Brit Milah to Yaakov after the travails of his time with Lavan and his battle in Shechem. Like his grandfather Avraham, Yaakov has his name changed and receives the promise (35:11-12), "Ani Keil Shakai.Goy Ukhal Goyim Yihyeh Mimeka.Ve'et Haaretz Asher Natati Le'avraham Ulyitzchak - Lecha Etinena, Ulzaracha Acharecha.," "I am Keil Shakai.a nation and a congregation of nations will come from you.and the land that I gave to Avraham and to Yitzchak - I will give it to you, and to your children after you.."
Thus, God reveals what Yitzchak learned over the course of Parshat Toldot: Although Eisav is not necessarily unfit for the contents of the opening blessing of Lech Lecha, only Yaakov can carry on his fathers' full legacy due to the spiritual nature of Brit Milah.
Finally, in the beginning of Parshat Va'eira, we find the fulfillment of Brit Bein Habetarim. God explains to Moshe that the Avot saw the fulfillment of Brit Milah. They observed this commandment, and in return God allowed them to dwell in Canaan as temporary residents - "Vegam Hakimoti Et Beriti Itam, Latet Lahem.Et Eretz Megureihem, Asher Garu Vah," "And I also established my covenant with them, to give to them.the land of their dwellings, in which they dwelled (Shemot 6:4). This is the same formulation that God used in the original Parsha of Brit Milah. Now, however, God promises Moshe that He will uphold the one promise that He has not yet fulfilled: the promise of Brit Bein Habetarim.
By identifying the different blessings in Lech Lecha, we gain a better understanding of several later stories where the same phrases reappear. We also realize the tremendous responsibility that we bear as the recipients of these blessings and covenants. We have been promised prosperity and power, but we have also been informed that God runs His world according to just principles of reward and punishment. He punished the Egyptians and Canaanites for their sins, so He expects us to act better than them, in order to truly merit His blessings.

But Your Name Shall Be Avraham
by Dov Rossman

In Parshat Lech Lecha, the Torah states (17:5): "Velo Yikarei Od Et Shimcha Avram, Vehaya Shimcha Avraham," "And your name shall no longer be called Avram, and your name will be Avraham." The Mishnah states that anyone who calls Avraham by the name Avram is violating a positive mitzvah from the Torah because of this Pasuk. R' Eliezer states that one is not only violating a positive mitzvah; he is also violating a negative mitzvah because of the first part of the Pasuk, "Velo Yikarei Od." The Gemara then asks: if this Halachah is correct, why does it not apply to Yaakov, whom we call by the name Yaakov today even though his name was switched to Yisrael? The answer is that the case of Yaakov is different because Hashem calls Yaakov by the name Yaakov even after his name is switched to Yisrael.
The Divrei Eliyahu adds that Yaakov's name was never completely switched to begin with. He points out a hint to this in the names of the Tefilot that the Avot set up. The second letter of the name Avraham, Bet, hints to the Tefilat Boker, which Avraham established. The second letter of Yitzchak, Tzadi, hints to the Tefilah that Yitzchak established, Tefilat Hatzaharayim. The second letter of the name Yaakov, Ayin, hints to the Tefilah that he established, Tefilat Arvit. Since the Ayin in Yaakov's name is useful, we see that the name Yaakov still had a purpose and function. This contrasts with the name Avram, which had no use and was completely replaced by the name Avraham.

Dual Purpose
by Etan Bluman

Avram and his wife Sarai spent much of their lives spreading the word of Hashem. Despite their efforts, Hashem did not appear to them for many years. Finally, in this week's Parsha, Hashem speaks to Avram, telling him to leave his home for an unknown land. What was Hashem's main motivation in giving Avraham this unusual command?
The Midrash states that Hashem's primary reason was to spread Avram's fame, ultimately bringing in more people to serve Hashem. Rashi quotes this very practical reason (in his commentary to 12:1), and also quotes another concept. According to the Gemara, Hashem sent Avram to Canaan to start the nation of Bnei Yisrael. This first test of Avraham's, that of moving to Eretz Canaan, represented the birth of Am Yisrael. Only in Eretz Canaan, says the Gemara, could Avraham have children and start a nation. This is why Hashem told Avraham to go "Lecha," "for yourself" - it was in Avraham's own interest to move, because only then would he merit children.
Ultimately, both of these goals were accomplished. Avraham did have children and start a nation in Canaan, and by visiting many places, as the Midrash indicated, he was able to spread the word of Hashem to many more people. Thus, Hashem's command to Avraham provided for the people of Avraham's own time and for us in the future. Hashem planned for His word to be spread further in Avraham's day, while simultaneously setting up the birth of our nation.

 

Halacha of the Week
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 249:3) states that when we give Tzedakah, we should do so with great sensitivity and commiserate with the plight of the unfortunate individual whom we are helping. Thus, we should support the recipient of the Tzedakah both financially and psychologically.

 

 

Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief:  Ely Winkler, Willie Roth
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editors: Jesse Dunietz, Ariel Caplan
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Moshe Zharnest
Business Manager: Etan Bluman
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: Duvie Barth, Mitch Levine, Josh Markovic, Moshe Schaffer, Chaim Strauss
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter

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This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored in memory of:

Moshe David Ben Yitzchak Goldman

Feige Perel bat Moshe David Goldman
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This week's issue of Kol Torah has also been sponsored by Rabbi Meier & Helen Brueckheimer on the occasion of the upcoming Yahrzeit of haChever Naftali ben Maer z"l.

 


This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.