• Dvar for Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

    Embedded in this week’s Parsha, Lech Lecha, is Avram’s asking Hashem (G-d) “how will I know that I will inherit it (the land)?” This seems strange, because Avram was already promised that he would have children, and that his children would be as many as the stars. If he believed G-d about having children (which would be a great miracle at his age), why would he need reassurance about a much less miraculous promise of inheriting the land?

    The Sforno explains that Avram had no doubt that he would have children, and that they would inherit the land. What he needed reassurance about what his concern that his children might forfeit their future by faltering, because unlike the stars, they would be living among temptations and impurities. G-d’s response is “you shall surely know” that they will indeed rise above their struggles. How? Rashi (commentary) says because of the Korbanot (sacrifices) that they will bring. The root of the word Korban means “close”, which lends great insight into giving: The more we sacrifice to others, the closer we are to them. If we give to each other, despite our surroundings, we are assured of inheriting a prosperous and fulfilling future.

  • Dvar for Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

    In Parshat Lech Lecha, among the blessings that Avraham was to receive for leaving all that he had was the blessing that he himself should be a blessing (12:2). How does one become a blessing? Furthermore, Rashi comments that G-d promised Avraham that although he would be identified with Yitzchak and Yakov, any such blessings would end with Avraham’s name at its conclusion. If the sages are correct that Yitzchak and Yakov reached higher levels than Avraham, what made him so special that any blessing would end with him?

    Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Avraham merited greater distinction because he was the first to establish faith in Hashem (G-d). Although those after him reached greater heights, Avraham’s accomplishments were more worthy. Maybe this can explain how Avraham himself became the blessing: Taking initiative and starting something you believe is important for society is a blessing on its own, because it lays the framework for others to build on it! G-d promised Avraham, and in turn promised us, that, if we become leaders and initiators, our efforts will never be forgotten and we will always be remembered as a blessing.

  • Dvar for Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

    Embedded in this week’s Parsha, Lech Lecha, is Avram’s asking Hashem (G-d) “how will I know that I will inherit it (the land)?” This seems strange, because Avram was already promised that he would have children, and that his children would be as many as the stars. If he believed G-d about having children (which would be a great miracle at his age), why would he need reassurance about a much less miraculous promise of inheriting the land?

    The Sforno explains that Avram had no doubt that he would have children, and that they would inherit the land. What he needed reassurance about what his concern that his children might forfeit their future by faltering, because unlike the stars, they would be living among temptations and impurities. G-d’s response is “you shall surely know” that they will indeed rise above their struggles. How? Rashi (commentary) says because of the Korbanot (sacrifices) that they will bring. The root of the word Korban means “close”, which lends great insight into giving: The more we sacrifice to others, the closer we are to them. If we give to each other, despite our surroundings, we are assured of inheriting a prosperous and fulfilling future.

  • Dvar for Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

    In Parshat Lech Lecha, among the blessings that Avraham was to receive for leaving all that he had was the blessing that he himself should be a blessing (12:2). How does one become a blessing? Furthermore, Rashi comments that G-d promised Avraham that although he would be identified with Yitzchak and Yakov, any such blessings would end with Avraham’s name at its conclusion. If the sages are correct that Yitzchak and Yakov reached higher levels than Avraham, what made him so special that any blessing would end with him?

    Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Avraham merited greater distinction because he was the first to establish faith in Hashem (G-d). Although those after him reached greater heights, Avraham’s accomplishments were more worthy. Maybe this can explain how Avraham himself became the blessing: Taking initiative and starting something you believe is important for society is a blessing on its own, because it lays the framework for others to build on it! G-d promised Avraham, and in turn promised us, that, if we become leaders and initiators, our initial efforts will never be forgotten and we will always be remembered as a blessing!

  • Daily Aliya for Lech Lecha, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d sealed a covenant with Avraham and his descendants; the sign of the covenant is the circumcision of all males when they are eight days old. Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and G‑d promises a delighted Abraham that he will father another son, this time from Sarah. At the age of 99, Abraham circumcised himself, his son Ishmael, and all the members of his household.

    When Avraham finds out that he will have a son, Yitzchak, he laughs. Sarah laughed too, but her laughter was one of disbelief, while Avraham’s was one of happiness. It’s interesting to note that Yitzchak was named so because of Avraham’s reaction, not Sarah’s.

  • Daily Aliya for Lech Lecha, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Avram requested a sign from G‑d that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. G‑d responded in the famous “Covenant Between the Parts.” Avram and the Divine Presence passed between an assortment of halved animals, and G‑d told Avram that his descendants would be exiled and in bondage for four hundred years. At the conclusion of this period, Avram’s descendants would leave with great wealth, G‑d would punish the nations which enslaved them, and Avram’s children would inherit the lands of Canaan. Following this pact, Sarai — seeing that she and Avram were still childless — suggested that Avram father a child with her Egyptian maid, Hagar. Hagar conceived and began to mistreat her mistress Sarai, who responded with a heavy hand, prompting Hagar to flee. Hagar encountered an angel who encouraged her to return to Sarai, promising her that the child she will bear will become a great nation. She obeyed, and gave birth to Ishmael. At the very end of this section, G‑d added the letter hey to Avram’s name, making it “Avraham.”

    This Aliya features classic struggles. Sara struggles with her shortcoming when her handmaid, Hagar, gives birth before her, and drives Hagar to flee (and return at the behest of G-d). Avraham struggles with is feelings of inadequacy when he finds out that he’s not perfect in G-d’s eyes because he isn’t circumcised (he fixes that right away). It’s very telling that Avraham gets his name “improved” before Sara does, probably as a subtle lesson to Sara for not dealing with her issues appropriately.

  • Dvar for Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

    Embedded in this week’s Parsha, Lech Lecha, is Avram’s asking Hashem (G-d) “how will I know that I will inherit it (the land)?” This seems strange, because Avram was already promised that he would have children, and that his children would be as many as the stars. If he believed G-d about having children (which would be a great miracle at his age), why would he need reassurance about a much less miraculous promise of inheriting the land?

    The Sforno explains that Avram had no doubt that he would have children, and that they would inherit the land. What he needed reassurance about what his concern that his children might forfeit their future by faltering, because unlike the stars, they would be living among temptations and impurities. G-d’s response is “you shall surely know” that they will indeed rise above their struggles. How? Rashi (commentary) says because of the Korbanot (sacrifices) that they will bring. The root of the word Korban means “close”, which lends great insight into giving: The more we sacrifice to others, the closer we are to them. If we give to each other, despite our surroundings, we are assured of inheriting a prosperous and fulfilling future.

  • Daily Aliya for Lech Lecha, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Avram rebuffed the king of Sodom’s wish to award him with all the war’s spoils. When G‑d reassured Avram that he would be greatly rewarded for his righteousness, Avram broaches his childlessness. “What is the point of all the reward and wealth,” Avram cried, “if I have no heir to inherit it?!” G‑d assured Avram that he will indeed have a child, and promised that Avram’s descendants will be as numerous as the stars of the heaven.

    Why did Avraham refuse to accept anything from the king of Sodom, but he became very wealthy from that which he accepted from Paroh? Commentaries say that Avraham was setting the stage for the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to the descendants of Avraham, that they would leave the country of their exile and oppression with great wealth. Hence, there was a purpose to accept the gifts from Paroh, and no reason to accept those of the king of Sodom (and therefore be obligated to him on any level).

  • Daily Aliya for Lech Lecha, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The southern region of Canaan was embroiled in a major war involving many kings. When the dust settled, the victorious kings took captive all the inhabitants of the Sodom region — Lot included. When Avram was informed of Lot’s plight he rushed to the rescue along with a handful of men, engaged the victorious kings in battle, soundly defeated them, released all the captives and returned all the spoils.

    Some ironic mentions: 1) One of the four winning kings was Shem, one of Noach’s sons; 2) Another one of the four winning kings was Nimrod, who had thrown Avram into the fire to prove that he was a man of G-d; 3) Avram was informed of Lot’s plight by Og, who Medrash says was the only person outside the ark to have survived the flood by hanging on to it (symbolic of his regret for any wrong-doings?) ; 4) The main battle took place in Ein Mishpat, so named because it was where Moshe and Aaron would be judged for hitting the rock when the Jews needed water. Is there a connection between Og’s actions? What was it about Ein Mishpak that so many things happened around it? These are not coincidences, but many of the mysteries of these people, places and events are still unknown to us. Still, we do know that there’s a reason for all of it, which should help us perform to those laws that we don’t (yet) understand.

  • Daily Aliya for Lech Lecha, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Lot, who had accompanied Avram and Sarai, was independently wealthy. When Lot’s shepherds quarreled with Avram’s shepherds, the two parted ways, with Lot settling in the province of Sodom, which was renowned for its evil inhabitants. After Lot departed, G‑d spoke to Avram again, reiterating His promise to bequeath the land to his descendants, and promising to make his descendants numerous as the soil of the earth.

    One commentary says that although Avraham knew that his spirituality was compromised by Lot’s presence, he nonetheless did not chase Lot away until he had no choice. Avraham felt a moral obligation to take care of Lot (including saving him after they parted) even though he knew that G-d was “keeping His distance” with Lot around. Is hospitality more important than receiving the Divine Presence? It seems that way.

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