This week’s Dvar Torah, Parshat Lech Lecha, is centered around Avram’s relationship with G-d. The parsha starts with G-d saying, “לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ," meaning, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Avram was instructed to leave his birthplace and go to the land of Canaan with his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot. He also received a blessing that read: “וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽ,” meaning, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” When the family arrived at the land of Cannan, G-d told Avram that this would be the land of his offspring, and then proceeded to leave Avram with the responsibility of building an altar in G-d’s honor and spreading the ideology of one G-d, more commonly known today as monotheism.
However, in the land of Canaan, the living conditions were less than ideal. More specifically, there was a famine which caused Avram to want to move to Egypt. However, before he entered the land of Egypt, Avram told Sarai how they would present themselves as brother and sister. Due to Sarai’s magnificent beauty, if anyone found out they were married, Avram’s life would be in danger and Sarai would be taken into custody in the Pharaoh's residence.
During this time, Avram, too, was successful. He had acquired significant amounts of livestock and slaves. However, this success did not last long as G-d afflicted a plague on Pharaoh’s home due to the fact that Avram was not being truthful about the nature of his and Sarai’s relationship. Avram, Sarai, and Lot, were then forced to gather all the wealth they had acquired and leave Egypt. It was at this point the 3 would venture through what is known today as the Negev Desert.
As they made their way through the Negev, Avram approached the area where he had built the altar. Once he arrived, he called out to the Lord by name. It was then that the family decided they had acquired too many goods and too much wealth for them to stay together successfully. In order to preserve both groups, they decided to continue their journeys in opposite directions. Lot discovered that the land of Sodom was fertile and decided to settle there, while Avram remained in the land of Canaan. However, Sodom was a place in which evil resided, therefore, G-d told Avram that the whole land of Canaan was for all of his offspring. G-d promised Avram, “שַׂמְתִּ֥י אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֖ כַּעֲפַ֣ר הָאָ֑רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר ׀ אִם־יוּכַ֣ל אִ֗ישׁ לִמְנוֹת֙ אֶת־עֲפַ֣ר הָאָ֔רֶץ גַּֽם־זַרְעֲךָ֖ יִמָּנֶֽה,” meaning, “I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring too can be counted.” The statement that G-d made to Avram basically meant how one day, all of the land would be filled with Avram’s numerous offspring. G-d told Avram to venture off in his land as all of it belonged to him. Because of G-d’s instructions, Avram resided in the fields of Mamre, in Hebron, and there he built another altar in honor of the Lord. Unfortunately, Avram did not encounter much peace during this time as there were a series of wars that broke out in many surrounding kingdoms. The results of the war led to Avram losing all his wealth to those who had invaded Sodom.
Once Avram heard this news, he was furious, so he gathered all of his servants and went on the attack at night. Avram’s team was immensely successful as they were able to retrieve Lot with all his possessions, as well as all the people there. After this success, the King of Sodom met with Avram and greeted him with bread and wine. Avram then received a priestly blessing, when what he actually wanted was Lot in exchange for his possessions. Avram did not want this blessing, he told the king that he would never take anything from him, as he would never accredit his successes to the king. All the credit for Avram’s successes would be given to G-d. As a result, G-d told Avram that he would be protected and rewarded, but all Avram wanted was a child. G-d said to Avram, “הַבֶּט־נָ֣א הַשָּׁמַ֗יְמָה וּסְפֹר֙ הַכּ֣וֹכָבִ֔ים אִם־תּוּכַ֖ל לִסְפֹּ֣ר אֹתָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֔וֹ כֹּ֥ה יִהְיֶ֖ה זַרְעֶֽךָ׃,” meaning, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them, so shall your offspring be.” Avram knew that G-d could be trusted, and so he waited for what G-d promised, a child.
Sarai felt guilty about not being able to provide Avram with offspring, so she told him to have relations with the servant, Hagar, in order to have a child. Once Avram agreed, Sarai made Hagar Avram’s concubine where she immediately became pregnant. However, in the end, the acts that Avram and Hagar participated in made Sarai jealous. Avram left it up to Sarai to figure out how to deal with Hagar. Sarai ended up being cruel and unfriendly to Hagar, causing her to flee. G-d intervened and told Hagar to go back to Avram and Sarai, and deal with the mean treatment. G-d promised her many offspring in return. In addition, G-d also told her that she was carrying a son that was to be named Ishmael, as G-d knew the sacrifice she made. Ishmael was born when Avram was 86 years old.
13 years later, at the age of 99, G-d felt it was time to make a covenant between the two parties and further the promise of providing him with numerous offspring. G-d also told Avram that his name would be changed to Abraham as he was to be “the father of a multitude of nations.” G-d promised that their covenant would apply to all his descendants and they would forever own the land of Canaan with G-d guiding them. G-d told Abraham that “זֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר ,תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥ין זַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כׇּל־זָכָֽר,'' meaning, “Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.” When every male turned eight days old, he was to be circumcised as a physical representation of the covenant. G-d also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah and blessed her by allowing them to conceive a child with the intention of helping guide the new nation. This child’s name was to be Isaac and he would continue the covenant. Ishmael was not forgotten, he was given a blessing in which he would produce the leaders of the 12 tribes to come. After this, Abraham circumcised himself as well as all male members of the family, beginning the everlasting covenant.
This Parsha exemplifies the importance of following, believing in, and loving G-d. Good fortune and success will present itself when one puts their trust and hearts into G-d’s hands, despite how hard the journey may seem at the time. Throughout one's lifetime, there will be many obstacles that we will be forced to face, but our faith and trust in G-d is what will allow us to push through and find the light at the end of the tunnel.
For example, as a Jew, the purpose of Shabbat is to strengthen your relationship with G-d, your identity, and the community. However, in the modern world, there are so many obstacles that may prevent us from celebrating Shabbat. More specifically, these challenges may present themselves as friends encouraging you to go on a weekend road trip or participating in a shopping outing. Even the longing for your phone on Shabbat can be considered a major difficulty. It can be really hard at times when you feel left out or like you are not able to participate in the ever-changing modern day society. However, it is crucial that you remember why you do celebrate Shabbat and stay true to your beliefs despite how great the temptations may be. You are able to discover who truly cares about you and your relationship with G-d. We celebrate Shabbat to take time for ourselves and separate our lives from the chaos that may have occurred the previous week. Without a break, we would be unable to function, affecting the productivity we need to succeed. By taking one day out of the week to relax and immerse yourself in the Jewish community that is empowered by our faith, we reflect on what went well, and what didn’t, and take our strength with us into the next week with the lessons we have learned. By doing so, and trusting G-d, no matter how great the temptation, we will be able to put our best foot forward and be the best versions of ourselves, therefore allowing us to thrive.
PWR Regional Shalichot, Liora Langman, and Maya Foonberg
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