Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lech Lecha

The Torah Portion of Lech Lecha 

"...Go for yourself..." (Bereisheet 12:1)

Rashi says, "for your pleasure and for your benefit".  It is told about the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) Ba'al HaMaor Ainayim that he was very involved in performing the Mitzvah of Pidyon Sh'vuyim (redeeming captives).  One time the Ba'al HaMaor Ainayim himself was a captive for a short time period, and it was revealed to him from Heaven that Hashem wanted him to experience for himself how it felt to be in captivity, so that he would know the greatness of the Mitzvah that he was involved in.  Also with regards to Avraham, Hashem told him "Go for yourself, for your pleasure", so that when you will feel the suffering entailed by those who are traveling and the pleasure that they feel when they find a place to stay, you will know the greatness of the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality -- receiving guests) that you perform.

"...from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house..." (Bereisheet 12:1)

There is a hint here to that which is written in Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot 3:1): "Look at three things and you will not come into the hands of a sin -- know from where you came, to where you are going, and before Whom you are to give a judgment and an accounting in the future." "From your land"-- this is referring to the dust of the earth, and this is "to where you are going".  "From your birthplace" -- this is referring to the origin of your birth, and this is "from where you came".   "And from your father's house" -- this is referring to our Father in Heaven, and  in the future you will give before Him a judgment and an accounting.

"...and the souls that they made in Charan..."  (Bereisheet 12:5)

It is told in the Midrash, that one time Avraham Avinu hosted a guest who was an elderly 90 year old man.  After the man finished eating and drinking, Avraham told him to cast off his idol worship, and he spoke with him for 6 hours in order to convince him and bring him close to Hashem.  In the end the man took out his idol from his pocket and kissed it.  Avraham said to him, "I gave you food and drink and spoke to you for 6 hours on this topic, and you still stuck to your opinion (to continue worshipping idols)",  and he sent him away from his house.  When the man left, the Holy One Blessed Be He said to Avraham, "I kept him alive for 90 years, because maybe he would do Teshuva (repent), and you, after only 6 hours, gave up on him".  Immediately, Avraham went to look for the man, and begged him not to go now during the night when there are dangers on the road and dangerous animals, saying "Come back to me and I will give you a place to stay the night".  And that is what the man did, and the next day Avraham again spoke to his heart for many hours until the man repented.  From here we learn that one should never give up on any student, and even though he doesn't succeed in the beginning, he should  return and try again and with the help of Hashem he will succeed, and he will see blessing and Nachat (satisfaction) from every single student.

"And it occurred, as he was about to come to Mitzrayim, he said to his wife Sarai, 'Behold, now have I known that you are a woman of fair appearance'."  (Bereisheet 12:11)

The Ramban writes that Avraham Avinu inadvertently sinned a great sin when he brought his wife to the possibility of stumbling in a sin when he was afraid that they would kill him, and he should have trusted in Hashem to save him and his wife and everything that he had, for Elokim has the power to help and to save.  Furthermore, his leaving the Land of Israel because of the famine, after he had previously been commanded to enter it, was also a transgression in which he sinned.  For also in a famine, Elokim can save one from death.  And because of this event, it was decreed upon his descendents exile in the land of Mitzrayim at the hand of Pharoah.  In the place of judgment, there is the evil and the sin (see Kohelet 3:16). Maran HaGaon Rav Eleazar Menachem Man Shach ztz"l asks, from where does the Ramban know this, since we don't find it written in the Gemara or Midrash?  And he explains that it is is written, "The secret of Hashem is to those who fear Him" (Tehillim 25:14).  The Holy One Blessed Be He reveals secrets to those who fear Him.

"And he proceeded on his journeys..." (Bereisheet 13:3)

Rashi says that on his return, he repaid his debts.  When he went to Mitzrayim, he borrowed from the lodging places that he rested at, because he didn't have money.  And upon returning, since he had become wealthy, he repaid his debts.  And there is an additional explanation, that the non-Jews asked him provocative questions: "You who are so attached to Hashem and rely upon Him, how is it that you are a poor person and Hashem doesn't help you?"  And he answered them, "You will yet see that there will come a time that I will be very rich".  And that is the explanation that on his return he repaid his debts, that is to say, that he was required to give them an answer to their questions, and he showed them that Hashem helped him.

"On his return he repaid his debts."  (Rashi on Bereisheet 13:3)

When a man learns something the first time, he has questions and doesn't understand.  But when he returns (i.e., reviews), it becomes more clear to him, and that is what is hinted about "on his return..."  When one reviews  another time, he repays his debts -- he finds an answer to his questions.

"And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Avram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock..."  (Bereisheet 13:7)

In the beginning the word used to refer to their arguing was "Reev"   (in English: "quarreling"), which is a masculine word, and afterwards the word used was "M'reeva" (in English: "strife"), which is a feminine word.  For the way of quarreling is that it begins with a small matter, like a male which doesn't give birth, and afterwards it is like a female, which does give birth, for the quarreling and divisiveness spread out.  And this is a Mussar (Ethical) teaching, that one should not start a quarrel at all, because it is impossible to know what it will give birth to afterwards. 

"And the angel of Hashem said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to suffer under her hand'."  (Bereisheet 16:9)

Why does the verse add "under her hand"?  Behold, it is sufficient for the verse to say "Return to your mistress and submit yourself to suffer".   But rather, the intention of what the angel said to her, is that if it is decreed upon  a person to undergo suffering, nothing can help him and no matter where he flees to he will still undergo the suffering.  And that is why the angel said to Hagar, "Return to your mistress and submit yourself to suffer under her hand".  It is worthwhile and preferable for you to suffer under the hand of Sarah rather than suffering someplace else.

"On that very day was Avraham circumcised, and Yishmael his son."  (Bereisheet 17:26)

Rashi wrote that "on that very day" means that on the day when 99 years were filled for Avraham and 13 years were filled for Yishmael, they were circumcised.  The Ramban explains that "on that very day" that he was commanded in this Mitzvah, he and all those who were born in his house, 318 men and all those purchased of his money, were circumcised.  And the verse comes to tell us the great level of Avraham's fear of Hashem, and the level of all the members of his household, for all of them were alacritous to fulfill Mitzvot without delay.

The Torah Portion of Lech Lecha has 126 verses. One positive commandment.
Haftora: "Lama Tomar Ya'akov" (Yeshayahu 40). 
We say Borchi Nafshi.

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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