This week’s Torah portion is Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27) and it may very well be one of the most famous, and certainly most noteworthy, readings of the entire Torah.
The reason why it may be among the most famous and most noteworthy is because it is the reading where God promises the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants (descendants through Isaac that is!). As part of this promise, God tells Abraham that he must leave his hometown and head westward to Israel. God tells him that he cannot become great where he lived, due to the spiritual filth and immorality that was prevalent there.
Abraham is also promised wealth, riches, and fame (and probably better Shawarma), if he picks up and goes to Israel. And he obeys. He packs his suitcases and leaves. Abraham arrives in the Land of Israel only to find that there is a famine in the land. Not exactly what Abraham was thinking when he decided to obey the call of God and leave him home for Israel!
As a result of the famine, Abraham is forced to pack up again and head south to Egypt where there was food. What happened to the promise? Now, if that wasn’t bad enough, on the way down to Egypt, Sarah is forcibly taken away from Abraham due to her beauty and sent to Pharaoh for him to do with her as he pleased.
To make a long story short, Sara is eventually released by Pharaoh. Pharaoh and Abraham “make up,” and Pharaoh sends Abraham back to the land of Israel “laden with livestock, silver, and gold.” There’s the promise!
Our sages teach us that on his way back to Israel, Abraham stayed at all the same places that he had stayed on his way down to Egypt. We learn from here that it is proper etiquette not to change one’s lodgings where one had previously received home hospitality.
Huh? Why was it important for Abraham to stay at the same places that he previously stayed at? One explanation is that, as mentioned, Abraham was promised that he would become rich if he listened to God and moved to the land of Israel. But we see that this was not to be, at least not immediately upon his arrival to the land. In fact, the opposite occurred. There was a famine in the land, and Abraham had to leave as fast as he had come! He didn’t get rich…he became destitute! Abraham was worried that this development would make God look bad, as if He was a liar. As such, Abraham wanted to show people that God does indeed fulfill His promises. Abraham was returning with “livestock, silver, and gold.”
So the reason Abraham was careful to lodge at the same places he stayed at on the way down was so that the very same people who might have doubted God and seen a poor Abraham, would now see God’s promises fulfilled, and a very rich Abraham! Yes, there may have been a temporary “bump in the road” for Abraham. That is the way life is sometimes. These are the “tests” that we must sometimes endure. It might take time sometimes, but we must never forget that God is always faithful to fulfil His promises. During this wave of terror that we are experiencing, let us recall God’s promise through his prophet Jeremiah: “’They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you and I will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below:
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