July 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Lech Lecha

This week’s haftarah begins at the end of the 40th perek in Sefer Yeshayahu and extends into the 41st chapter. At first glance, the connection to our parsha is based on a simple phrase found in the 41st chapter. There, the navi tries to comfort the suffering nation by reassuring them that Hashem would never abandon them as they are “zera Avraham ohavi, the seed of Avraham who loved Me.” This mention of our first forefather brings us back to the story of Avraham and Sarah that begins in this parsha.

And yet, one could rightfully question the choice of Chazal. Certainly, his name appears in the books of other prophets. Surely, we might have preferred a message that did not express the doubts and hesitations of a soon-to-be exiled nation! What is it about this one phrase that captured the imagination of our rabbis that led them to establish this prophecy as the one to be read for this parsha?

The answer might be found in the description of Avraham. Not that he was the first to “discover” God, nor the first to spread belief in one Supreme Ruler, nor the first to teach Divine ethics. Rather, that he was the first to be called “ohavi,” one who loved Me. And indeed that is a fitting sobriquet, for Avraham followed God’s commands for but one reason: he loved Him. Adam was given commands and was told the punishment for not observing them. Noach was given a command and understood what fate awaited him if he did not save himself on an ark. But God told Avraham simply, “Lech lecha, Go forth,” and Avraham went.

Hashem tested Avraham no less than 10 times. Sometimes it was through Divine command and sometimes through difficult experiences. But never did Avraham fail to meet the challenge. Nor did he ever doubt. “V’he’emin BaShem, And he believed in God” the Torah tells us of Avraham. But the navi goes a step further. Yeshayahu tells us that Avraham’s belief was based upon a deep and overwhelming love of God that Avraham had. Avraham had no past teaching to build upon nor old traditions to learn from. He built his relationship with God by himself, and nurtured that love from his own heart.

So what say we? We have thousands of years of tradition and countless luminaries to learn from. Nonetheless, the prophet reminds us that we too must build our own unique relationship with God, one that must grow and develop throughout our lives and through the trials and challenges life places in our way.

It is a challenge we are urged to meet for it was our first patriarch who showed us the way. Lech lecha—go forth and succeed.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler

 Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles