Parshat Lech Lecha

Lech Lecha

This Dvar Torah is an amazing idea heard from a friend Mrs. Rosen. Hashem speaks to Avraham and tells him to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s house and He directs him to Israel. As a reward for observing this demand Avraham is promised: “Ve’escha legoy gadol va’avarececha va’agadlah shemecha veheyeh bracha.” “And I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” (Gen. 12,2)

There are tons of meforshim that question this verse. We can try to understand this verse deeper. The first understanding is that from Avraham a great nation will be born. How does this make sense when we know how little the Jewish nation is today? How does this fulfill the promise in this blessing? Let us try to understand this in a different light. This verse comes to say that the Jewish nation when counted at present day is not big in number. However, what it is saying is that when added up the Jews total more than anyone else. Why? Because we have been around for generation after generation! Every other generation has conquered and then disappeared, we have endured the test of time. This fulfills the prophetic blessing from G-d.

The next blessing we see in the Torah was to make the name of Avraham and his descendants great. How do we see that his name looked great? When you look at history and see the position that Jews have held in almost every country in the world, you can appreciate that their name has been great. Wherever they went they contributed greatly to the host country. They were accepted and appreciated until jealousy took hold and they were chased out. This was preceded always by the Jews trying to integrate into society and assimilate with the culture and in turn this led to their ultimate imminent destruction.

The final promise was that they will be a blessing. In spite of the great negative approach of the world to Israel and despite Israel’s constant battle with its enemies for survival, it has contributed to the progress of the modern world far above its proportion in population. No other country has made as many contributions to mankind per capita as the Jews of the world and of Israel have made. One example of this, of many more examples is Israel inventing Motorolla cellphones.

There is another idea I want to bring down from Rabbi Lam. And He took him outside and said, “Gaze, now, toward the Heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them!” and he said, “So shall your offspring be!” And he trusted in Hashem and He considered it to him a Tzedaka. (Genesis,15:5-6)

After gaining assurance from Hashem that he will have children, Avraham believed in or trusted Hashem and merited as if He had done Tzedaka. Tzedaka is of course a term we use to describe charity. Remarkably, Avraham is described as having done an act of charity with The Almighty. How is that possible? King David had said, “To Hashem is the world and all its fullness!” What can one possibly give that, so to speak, Hashem does not have already? How is possible to do Tzedaka with Him?

The answer is one word, emunah. “He believed in Hashem!” When the Talmud wanted to express the essential principle of Torah in one phrase it zeroed in on a single verse from the Prophet Havakuk, “The Tzadik lives with his emunah.” Now we only have to define the term “emunah” and all of life becomes a Tzedaka box for Hashem.

The word “emunah” is often translated as “belief” or “faith”. For sure something is lost with this translation. Those words carry the connotation of a shallow, blind, or even foolish acceptance of something that can’t be seen or proven. There might be some elements of truth there but it is sadly incomplete. “Emunah” represents an attitude of faithfulness; a disciplined loyalty to a notion one knows is true.

The Baal Shem Tov had said the following parable, a musician was once playing a most beautiful melody with wondrous rhythm and all the sweetness of the world. Those who heard the song were jumping and dancing with extreme joy. A deaf man entered an unable to hear the music judged all of the people to be insane. If he had been wise, he would have would have reasoned that there was wondrous music at play and he too might have joined in the joyous and festive dancing.

Avraham Avinu moved about in a world deaf to Hashem. In spite of the tidal waves of constant opposition he persisted with unyielding emunah, dedicated to Hashem’s every command and silenced by His promises! That’s Tzedaka!

It is hopefully the job of every seminary and yeshiva student to use this year to grow in his or her emunah and build their relationship with Hashem and give him as much Tzedaka as possible!

Student studying in Sharfmans