Big Gifts in Small Packages by Chaim Metzger


This week's Parasha ends with the death of Terach, as the Torah states, “VaYamot Terach BeCharan,” “And Terach died in Charan” (Bereishit 11:32).  One might inquire as to why the location of Terach’s death would matter, as the Torah does not mention the place of death for any other person in the lineages in which Terach is included.  One may answer based on Rashi that Hashem's wrath remained in the world up until this point, but it eased when Avraham started teaching Hashem’s ways.  Why would Hashem's wrath disappear when Avraham began teaching but not when other people, such as Sheim and Eiver, taught the ways of Hashem?  The Gemara (Avoda Zara 9a) responds that the two thousand years  before Avraham were devoid of Torah, but then Avraham heralded an era of Torah that spanned 2,000 years.  We may ask, though, how the limited region affected by Avraham could be more significant than that affected by those before him?  Moreover, what action did Avraham take that allowed him to herald this new age?

Avraham had a very different approach from his predecessors.  Sheim and Eiver established places where people could learn; however, they did nothing to help people realize that Hashem was the true God.  Avraham, on the other hand, taught Hashem's existence to everyone and instructed his disciples to do the same, allowing word of Hashem's greatness to spread far and wide, thereby ending the previous era.  In this new age, Hashem judged everyone in a more favorable way, so that although the wicked were punished, the punishments of the general populace were not as harsh as those before Avraham.  This can be compared to two countries.  In one country, people live fairly well, so the righteous are rewarded by achieving relative riches, and in the other country, people barely scrape by, and the righteous are rewarded by having all the basic necessities at all times.  The first country represents the era post-Avraham, while the second is pre-Avraham.  The post-Avraham generation deserved to be a prosperous society because in it, the Torah was being spread throughout the world.  From this, we can learn that taking care of one’s family and immediate community is not sufficient; we must be responsible and try to help all of Klal Yisrael as much as we can. Even one person can greatly influence the fate of his whole generation.

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