SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 63 NUMBER 2
October 26, 2012
10 Cheshvan, 5773
PARSHAS LECH LECHA
Candle-lighting Time: 5:48 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of the Bas Mitzvah celebration of Sarah Malka Leban. Mazel Tov!
- For those who live in Denver’s East Side community, please be advised that the Eruv is down this week due to the snowstorms. For information on the Eruv and its relevance, call TJE office.
I’ll Love You Forever
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
Since Abraham is the father of the Jewish People, and seeing that this week’s parsha is really the first one to speak about him at length, we shall take this opportunity to get to know him a little bit, and why he was so special.
The first significant thing that the Torah teaches us about him is that God spoke to him, and said, “Go from your land, your birthplace and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation and bless you and make your name great…” Before this conversation, the Torah tells us nothing about Abraham—who he is, why he merits to be spoken to by God, why God blesses him and gives him all this great stuff. Such an important person, given such an historic task, with no clear introduction or explanation given—it’s very strange. And so asks Nachmonides.
The Maharal offers a poetic answer based on our Sages’ discussion of love. It is taught in The Ethics of Our Fathers that love that is dependent on something will not last. Only a love that is dependent on nothing will last. Meaning to say, if two people love each other because they enjoy eating Cracker Jacks together, when their teeth rot and fall out, their love affair is over. If they loved each other just because they were husband and wife, their love will last past dentures all the way to eternity.
Explains the Maharal, the reason the Torah teaches us nothing about Abraham’s life before God sent him forth to receive His blessings is to show us that God’s love for Abraham and his descendants is dependent upon nothing. He didn’t choose Abraham because of some noble or worthy thing he did. He just chose him, and bound Himself in a Divine covenant with him, an eternal pact for all of the generations of his children, that He would be our God and we would be His people.
But is there then nothing that makes Abraham special at all? Was he just your average Joe four thousand years ago? What gives the choice any importance?
The first thing we learn about Abraham, and indeed, much of what the Torah teaches us about him, is that he was tested. From leaving his homeland only to find his destination subsumed by famine, to the binding of his beloved son for sacrifice, Abraham was tested. Our Sages enumerate ten tests that Abraham was subjected to, and he triumphantly passed them all.
Personally, if ten gargantuan tests is what God’s love gets you, better him than me. Most people hate tests. The only test I like is the one my wife asks me to perform on a tray of brownies to see if they’re ready.
God chose Abraham and endowed him with extraordinary potential—strengths and abilities that could enable him to become the shaper of a world. Potential in and of itself is worthless. He then gave Abraham ten tests through which he could take that potential and actualize it. Through the test he showed who he was and what abilities God had bestowed him with. That’s what a test really is, and that’s why the Hebrew word for test, nisayon, is based on the word nas, meaning a ‘show’ or display.
In Abraham’s excellence, he passed all ten tests, becoming the leader to whom God had given His great and holy mission—to be the father of the Jewish People, God’s chosen and beloved children.
What Do You Want?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Many of us have a preconceived notion that if we observe all the rigid religious obligations set down in the Torah, then all will be well. Putting on Tefillin everyday, studying Talmud, and affixing mezuzas to our doorposts is all that it takes to be an acceptably religious, observant Jew. Of course, those mitzvos are essential to our service of Hashem, however, there is a critically central ideology that is the bond that unites us all together.
Although Avrom left his father in Charan, Lot followed him and a feud developed between the shepherds of Lot and the shepherds of Avrom. Avrom, desirous of a peaceful solution, advised Lotto separate and choose where he would graze his sheep. He then told him that wherever he chose to reside, he would always be close by to assist him in time of need.
This entire episode needs to be further clarified. Lot was an evil man, as we see from the fact that he elected to live in Sodom, a well known haven for the evil. Yet Avrom did not castigate Lot for his ill choice, he patiently allowed Lot to have the luxury of selecting where he would live. Would we have acted with the same restraint and tolerance as Avrom did? Additionally, not only did Avrom show excessive tolerance for Lot, he also agreed to help him should the need arise. This display of friendship for a wicked person like Lot is bewildering. Why was Avrom so kind to such an evil man?
In order to answer this question, we must pose yet another. We know that the Torah is not simply a narrative of events that took place many years ago. Rather it is the word of Hashem transcribed through Moshe replete with many wonderful lessons and insights into life. Are we indeed to glean from this exchange between Avrom andLotthat we should deal with evil people in such a manner?
The answer is contained in Avrom’s immediate comment toLotupon hearing that their shepherds were fighting. He said that they were brothers and therefore strife should not exist between them. This is the lesson in simply terms, one that’s often easier said than done. In may an argument, the primary cause for friction is a difference in the agendas of the two parties. Each one pulls in his own direction and therefore common ground cannot be found. However, when we can establish parity between opposing sides, then peace and tranquility will ensue. This was the strategy that Avrom employed in order to resolve the conflict that developed between the shepherds.
However, this very answer provokes yet another question. Are we allowed to befriend someone who is truly evil, maintain a relationship with him under the guise of friendship and even assist him if necessary? Are we not cautioned to avoid such associations and camaraderie?
Upon closer examination, this issue becomes very clear. Avrom didn’t truly have a relationship withLot. On the contrary, due to the laxity that his shepherds displayed regarding the prohibition of stealing, they were grazing their sheep in land owned by others; Avrom toldLotthat they had to separate. And that approach was certainly warranted due toLot’s shepherd’s inappropriate behavior. Nonetheless, Avrom did guaranteeLotthat should there be an emergency that required outside assistance, of course he could depend on Avrom.
Throughout life, we encounter many different kinds of people and groups that may draw us into their sphere of influence. We must always assess and decide whether or not their modus operandi is acceptable or conflicts with our way of life predicated upon the principles of the Torah. Avrom was careful to balance this very precarious situation with the utmost care and concern, yet he did not compromise his ideals and standard in the slightest.
Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from www.partersintorah.org.
A Question for the Rabbis
Rabbi Menashe Klein was asked by the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, to show him evidence from the Torah regarding the criteria of Jewish identity. One of the proof texts that Rabbi Klein used to show matrilineal descent is in the Torah portion this week. When G-d promised Abraham a son, Abraham responded with a prayer that Ishmael should live. G-d replied, “However, your wife Sarah shall bear a son for you and you will name him Isaac, and I will fulfill my covenant with him as an eternal covenant with his descendants following him” (Genesis 17:19). It is clear from the dialogue that G-d’s covenant with Abraham would only be realized through Isaac and his descendants, not through Ishmael. Rabbi Klein suggests that this is due to the fact that Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, was never part of the covenant, and hence as a “gentile,” her son too was a “gentile.” Sarah, who was included in G-d’s covenant, was essentially “Jewish” and hence so was her son and his descendants (Responsa Mishneh Halachot 4:161).
Joke of the Week
If I walk instead of taking the bus, I can save $2.50. But if I walk instead of taxing a taxi I can save $8.00!
BYTE FOR SHABBOS
One must exercise extreme caution before he enters into a partnership. The consequences of an ill-advised joint venture can be devastating.