Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Parshas Lech Licha

Parshas Lech Licha:

Sorry this is late, but here it is:  With Hashem’s Help, let us get on to the holy parsha: The first verse is ‘Va’yomer Hashem el Avram; lech licha mei’artzicha u’mimoladi’ti’cha u’mibeis avicha el haaretz asher arekka/And Hashem said to Avram; go for yourself from your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’ Let us now begin to say over some nice insights on this verse:

1) Rashi HaKadosh explains that the verse saying licha/for yourself’ implies ‘for your benefit’.

2) Now, what does that go to teach us? I believe it is telling us that when you do Hashem’s Word (as going, in this case would be), it always ends up good for you.

3) The Rebbe Reb Zusia of Anipole zt”l explains that the word ‘eretz/earth’ can imply earthliness. And so he says that this verse is teaching us that we will not be able to come to the place that Hashem shows us until we get rid of our earthliness and concentrate more on spirituality.

4) His brother, the Noam Elimelech (The Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l) explains that ‘Lech licha/go for yourself’ can also mean ‘go to yourself’ – implying to go into yourself. This, he explains, teaches us that a person must go into themselves, so to speak, and try to get rid of all the bad that there is.[1]

5) The Divrei Yisroel (the first Modzitzer Rebbe - Rebbe Yisroel Taub zt”l) quotes the Midrash, which explains that the word ‘eretz/earth’ can imply ‘ratzon/will’: So, he says, this verse is teaching us that we must go from our will (‘from your land’) and come to Hashem’s Will (‘to the land that I will show you’). Meaning that, (similar to what we were discussing before), we must try to stop caring as much about our desires, and think more about Hashem’s Will.[2]

6) HaRav Avraham Rivlin shlita talks about the fact that Hashem was telling Avraham Avinu here to separate himself from his bad surroundings, i.e. his old place in Charan. And also, as we know, the land he was supposed to come to was Eretz Yisroel (it was called Canaan, at the time). And so he explains that this teaches us that a person must separate themselves from bad, and then come to good and spirituality. As it says in Tehillim 34:15 ‘Sur mei’raa, va’asei Tov/Turn from evil and do good.[3]

7) The Rebbe Reb Zusia zt”l says another great lesson we can learn from this verse: The Torah teaches us by saying ‘Go to yourself’, he explains, that a person must go in life by using themselves. Meaning that we must use the special talents that Hashem has given us individually, to fulfill our special mission in life.

Okay, now back to the parsha: Hashem promised Avraham Avinu lots of great things when he came to Eretz Yisroel, and he took Sarah, Lot, and the Souls they (him and Sarah) had made in Charan, and they came there. Wait; they made Souls? What does this mean?

So, Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah, which explains that the Torah is talking about the people whom Avraham and Sarah had brought close to Hashem and taught good ways. And the Sifri says that when one brings a person close to Hashem, it is as if they created them. Thus the language of ‘that they made in Charan’.

Now, the Kotzker Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk zt”l) adds another nice thing here:  He explains that the language of the verse ‘that they made in Charan’ teaches us what the main thing Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu taught these people: Asher asu/that they made’ can also mean ‘that they do’. Thus teaching us that the main thing Avraham and Sarah taught was ‘to do’, i.e. do the right thing and perform Hashem’s Will.[4] We must always try to have the right thoughts and intentions as well, of course, but the main thing is to actually do the right thing.

Back to the parsha: When Avraham Avinu came to Eretz Yisroel, however, there was a famine in the Land, and so he descended down to Egypt.

Now, Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, which explains that this was a test: Hashem had promised Avraham great things when he came to Israel, but when he got there, there was a famine! So this was a test to see whether Avraham would question Hashem’s Word, Chas V’Shalom, or not. And he did not. But wait; Hashem still promised him good!  So where was it? And the answer, of course, is that the good would come at a later time. So this teaches us a lesson in and of itself:

We know that everything that Hashem brings upon us is only for our benefit. But sometimes we cannot see the benefit right away. However, just because we don’t see the good at first does not at all mean that it isn’t there or won’t come. Just like Avraham Avinu, we must just trust in Hashem, and He will give us the good.

Back to the parsha: When Avraham went down to Mitzraim/Egypt, he asked Sarah to say she was his sister, (which, of course, was not a total lie, because, #1, as we know, she was the daughter of his brother, #2, she was also his sister in righteousness, and probably some other reasons too) so that the Mitzrim/Egyptians wouldn’t take her and kill him. He knew she was pretty, and he knew that if they knew he was her husband, they would take her, and kill him. Just as he thought, when the princes of Paroah saw that she was very pretty, they praised her, and brought her to Paroah, and Paroah gave Avraham gifts on the behalf of Sarah. But it was a bad thing for him to have taken Sarah, so Hashem struck Paroah and his house because of the matter of Sarah, because he took her from Avraham.

Now, Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Tanchuma, which comments on when the Torah says ‘Al divar Sarailiterally upon the word of Sarai’. So Tanchuma interprets it as meaning that Sarah would say to the Malach/Angel “Strike” and it would. So, Paroah called Avraham, and asked basically what he (Avraham) had done to him, (like when someone says “What have you done?!”) by saying that Sarah was his sister, and so he took her. Paroah gave Sarah back to Avraham, and sent them away. Avraham went away with Sarah and Lot and his possessions, and the land couldn’t bear both Avraham and Lot’s possessions (as Lot was rich also), and Avraham and Lot’s herdsmen argued. What were they arguing about?

Rashi HaKadosh quotes from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah, which explains that Lot’s herdsmen were wicked, and that they let their animals graze in other people’s fields, so Avraham’s herdsmen (who, I guess learned from Avraham, to be righteous) rebuked them about this. Lot’s herdsmen replied that the land was given to Avraham, and he had no heir, and Lot would inherit him, so it wasn’t robbery. But the passuk says ‘VihaCanaani vihaPerizi az yoshev baaretz/and the Canaani and the Perizi were then dwelling in the land’ which shows us that Avraham had not quite yet been awarded its possession (though he had already been promised it), so it was still theft.

The way Lot’s herdsmen were acting is the usual way of people sinning: They try to find an excuse why what they are doing is not bad, when, in reality it still is.

Back to the parsha: Avraham didn’t want arguing between them, so he said that they should separate. Again, Avraham teaches a good Middah; showing us that we should not quarrel with each other. Arguing leads to anger and hatred; we know the bad things said about anger, and we obviously know how bad hatred for a fellow Jew is. So, anyway, they indeed parted: Lot moved to Sodom, and Avraham dwelled in Israel.

In Rivi'i/the fourth Aliyah, it talks about the four kings; Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedarleomer king of Eilam, and Tidal king of Goyim, and the five kings; Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Ammorah, Shinav king of Admah, Shemeiver king of Tzevoiim, and the king of Bela, which is Tzoar. The five kings worked for the Chedarleomer for twelve years, and for thirteen years; they rebelled. In the fourteenth year of the rebellion, the four kings fought the five kings. The four kings beat the five kings, and they captured Lot. Avraham was informed that the four kings had captured Lot, and he gathered 318 men, and he pursued the four kings and their men until Don. There are some very insightful and interesting commentaries on this passuk/verse, which I will quote:

1) Rashi HaKadosh quotes from the Sages in Midrash Bereisheis Rabbah and Nedarim 32a, who say that the “318 men” were actually Eliezer Damaseik alone, because the Gematria/numerical value of the Hebrew word אליעזר is 318. (However, there is another opinion that the 318 men were Avraham Avinu’s students.

2) Rebbe Avraham Schorr shlita explains the 318 men homiletically: Why, he asks, would Avraham Avinu bring specifically 318 men? Why 318? And he explains that 318 is one more than the Gematria/numerical value of the Hebrew word ‘יאוּשׁ’ which means ‘despair’, i.e. to give up. So he says that Avraham Avinu wanted to bring 318 men in order for it to be one more than ‘yeush/despair’ to teach us never to give up. It would be easy to give up in Avraham’s position – 300-some people on one of the strongest armies out there!!  But he didn’t; he trusted in Hashem, and Hashem delivered the kings and their armies’ into his hands.[5] We must try to never give up ‘Hashem’s salvation comes in the blink of an eye’ and He can always help us. May He help us to never give up on anything good, Amein, vi’Amein.

Okay, back to the parsha: Avraham then, with his servants split up, smote the four kings, and took back Lot and all his possessions. In the middle of Chamishi/the fifth Aliyah, the Torah talks about how Hashem appeared to Avraham, and told him that He was his Shield and that his reward was very great. But Avraham really wanted a kid. And Hashem came to him and told him that he would have a kid. Hashem showed him the stars, and said that basically you will be able to count his offspring just as much as you can count the stars.

Hashem showed such kindness to him, as He does to his descendants. Though we do evil, and we deserve to be punished severely, He graciously waits for us to do Teshuva/repent, and doesn't punish us right away. Like it says: ‘Ki li’olam chasdo/For His kindness endures forever.’ Blessed is He! So, anyway, Hashem told Avraham that his descendants would be strangers in a land (Mitzraim/Egypt), and that they would be enslaved and would get oppressed for 400 years.

We see that we were not slaves for 400 years though; but Rashi HaKadosh, quotes from Seder Olam, which calculates this to start from the birth of Yitzchak until our going out from Egypt. Hashem told Avraham that He would judge the nation that enslaved them, and that his descendants would go forth with great possessions. Now, in this parsha also is the Bris bein Habesarim/the Covenant Between the Parts. Hashem formed a covenant with Avraham that He had given his offspring the Land from the river of Mitzraim/Egypt until the Ni’har Pras/Euphrates River.

Rashi HaKadosh says that the reason why Hashem said ‘Nasati/I have given’ is because when He says something, it is like an accomplished fact. Meaning that it is like it has already happened because Hashem is always true to His Word. We need to learn from Him to be very truthful as well, and try to never, Chas V’Shalom, be false. Now, Sarah saw she didn’t have any kids, so she gave Hagar to Avraham as a wife, so that she (Sarah) would be built up through her, and Hagar had Yishmael. Avraham was 86 when he had Yishmael.

When Avraham was 99 years old, Hashem established a covenant with him, and He said that his name would not be Avram anymore, but it would be Avraham. Hashem showed Avraham what the covenant would be: The Bris Milah/Circumcision where the flesh of the foreskin is circumcised. He told Avraham that all boys that are born from him, and the one that would be bought (by Jews), at the age of 8 days, has to have a Bris Milah/Circumcision.

Hashem told Avraham that Sarah wouldn’t be called Sarai anymore, but would be called Sarah. 
Hashem told Avraham that Sarah would have a son, and that He would bless her, and that basically nations and kings of nations would come from her. He told Avraham that the son that Sarah would have he would name Yitzchak, and that He would establish with him His Covenant as an everlasting covenant for his seed. Hashem also told Avraham that He would make Yishmael into a great nation.

Avraham gave a Bris Milah/Circumcision to Yishmael and all the people who were born in his house and all the people he had bought with money. Yishmael was 13 when he got a Bris Milah/Circumcision, and Avraham was 99 when he got his. The Bris is a very important moment in Judaism the moment when we enter into the Covenant with Hashem. It is one of the everlasting covenants between Hashem and us.

Have a wonderful, wonderful week everyone!

[1] Four Chassidic Masters - Page 54By Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita.  The PocketScroll® Series.  From Shaar Press.
[2] From TorahAnytime.comChassidic Gems:  Parashat Lech Licha.  Shiur given by Rebbe Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.
[3] From OU.org. 
[4] From TorahAnytime.comChassidic Gems:  Parashat Lech Licha.  Shiur given by Rebbe Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.
[5] From TorahAnytime.com.  Shiur given by Rebbe Avraham Schorr shlita.

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