Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 22   No. 3

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Zevulun Doron ben Shimshon z"l

Parshas Lech-L'cha

How Do I Know I will Possess It?

Shishi of the Parshah concludes with the words, "and he believed in Hashem" - that a great nation would descend from him, and he asked for no further proof of this - Rashi - "and He (Hashem) considered this a righteous act on his part." This is because, due to Avraham's inability to father children, he was displaying a remarkable faith in G-d by blindly accepting Hashem's promise in this regard. Rashi goes on to explain how, when in the following possuk, it speaks of Hashem's promise that he would inherit Eretz Yisrael, Avraham Avinu expresses doubts, asking for some proof that this would indeed be so. Two difficulties present themselves with the above explanation (which Rashi, as always, took from the Medrash ): 1. Why did Avraham Avinu see fit to accept the first promise in complete faith - which, one might add, was his hallmark throughout his life - whereas the second promise, that of the land, evoked doubts in his mind? On the only occasion in his life, he questioned Hashem.

2. Already at the beginning of Lech Lecha, G-d had promised Eretz Yisrael to Avraham Avinu's children. Why did he not question Hashem then?

One might possibly suggest that in Lech Lecho (12:7), G-d had promised the land to his children, and this he accepted, whilst at the "Bris bein ha'Besorim" - the paragraph with which we are dealing - the land was promised to him. However, this does not appear to be the explanation accepted by Chazal, who prefer to explain that the promise here also referred to his children, although they are not mentioned, and not to him. And besides, if the promise had been to him, then G-d's response would make little sense.

The second question is actually posed by the "Oznayim la'Torah". He accepts the interpretation of the commentaries, which assumes that the Bris bein ha'Besorim, which took place when Avraham Avinu was 70 predates the beginning of the Parshah, which occurred when he was 75, as is explicitly stated in the Torah. It is therefore not in the least surprising that it is at the "bris Bein ha'Besorim", which occurred first, that Avraham posed his question, and not when G-d instructed him to leave Choron for Eretz Yisrael (for the second time), which took place 5 years later, although it is written first.

The Chasam Sofer deals with our first question. In his answer, he differentiates between the promise of having children, and that of his children taking possession of Eretz Yisroel. The former, he explains, is dependent upon the Mazolos - as Chazal have taught us: "Children, life and sustenance depend not on merit, but on "Mazel", which can be changed by the Will of G-d, whenever He so wishes. Consequently, Avraham graciously - and gratefully - accepted the news that he would have children.

The latter however, was a different matter. It is all very well promising him Eretz Yisrael, but how did G-d plan to deprive the Cana'anim of their right to the land? (This does not conform with the opinion of Rashi above [12:6] who explains that the land actually belonged to the descendants of Shem, from whom Yisrael descended - and it was Chom's children, the Cana'anim, who were stealing the land from them.) For, even if the Cana'anim were great sinners, how could one be certain that they would not do teshuvah? It is all very well, Avraham Avinu maintained, to give a deserving person a gift, but with what right does one deprive the original owner of his ownership? (See the Chasam Sofer's second answer)

In any event, the fact remains: Avraham Avinu queried the news of the land but not of the children. It therefore appears feasible to say that "Ma'aseh ovos si'mon le'bonim" (what happens to the fathers is but an omen for what will eventually happen to their descendants). Consequently, whereas Avraham's descendents are assured of eternal existence - they will survive as long as this world survives - Eretz Yisrael has no such assurance. On the contrary, our possession of the land is uncertain, which explains why we went into golus twice in the space of 1000 years. That is because, as a result of Avraham Avinu's doubts, our permanence in Eretz Yisrael is not guaranteed...

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Parshah Points to Ponder

The First Sheva-Brochos

Hashem actually blessed Avrohon not with one b'rochoh, but with seven - Ba'al Ha'turim.

1. That he would become a great nation.

2. Monetary stability - wealth.

3. That his name (and his fortune) would change from Avrom to Avrohom.

4, That he would become a source of blessing.

5. That G-d will bless those who bless him.

6. That G-d will curse those who seek to do him harm.

7. That all the families of the world will be blessed through him.


A Time to Embrance and a Time to Reject

We learn from the Parshah the advantages of cleaving to a tzadik. 'What was the cause of Lot's immense wealth? - his decision to accompany Avrohom on his travels.' (Rashi 13:5)

But on the other hand, we also learn from the Parshah how destructive the company of an unworthy man can be, with the result that a tzadik must sometimes reject a rosho's company.

That is why Rashi also writes (13:14) that as long as the Rosho Lot was with Avrohom, Hashem would not speak to him.

There are times when rejection is more effective than being "mekarev", like we find with Yishmoel, who did teshuvah because his father threw him out, and Eisov, who did not do teshuvah because his father did not throw him out.

It appears that it is not always good to make peace; there are times and circumstances when one needs to make war.


Blessed by the Blessed ...

"And I will bless those who (will) bless you, and those who will curse you I will curse" (12:3).

Why, asks the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, does the Possuk switch the order, blessing the blessers before they bless Avraham and his descendents, but cursing those who curse them only afterwards?

It is well-known that the blessings of a wealthy man are more profuse than those of a poor one; whilst the curses of a poor man far exceed those of a wealthy one.

Consequently, G-d blesses those whom He knows intend to bless His people, in order to maximize their blessings; whereas He minimizes the curses of Yisrael's cursers by postponing their curses until after they have pronounced their curses.

In actual fact, the Possuk says nothing about money, riches or poverty. Rashi however, comments on the Possuk "And I will bless you" (with money). Similarly on the opening word of Birchas Kohanim "Yevorech'cho {He will bless you}" ... Rashi comments 'Your property will be blessed'.

Money may not be the ultimate blessing in this world, but it certainly plays a major role in attaining most things that one needs to live. To a certain degree, it is perhaps the blessing of blessings.


Why the Name Ya'akov Remained

"And your name will no longer be called 'Avram', but your name will be 'Avraham' (17:5).

Anyone who refers to Avraham as Avram, says the Gemara in B'rachos (13a) citing this Possuk, transgresses an Asei.

That being the case the Gemara asks, why do we not say the same with regard to someone who refers to Ya'akov as Yisrael?

Ya'akov is different, answers the Gemara, seeing as G-d Himself continues to refer to Ya'akov by his original name (as we find later in Vayechi 46:2).

But that itself is difficult, asks the G'ro? Having informed Ya'akov that from now on his name would be Yisrael, why did G-d contravene His own words (as it were)?

Moreover, now that G-d's change of name need not be taken too seriously, why can we not likewise take Avram's name-change with a pinch of salt?

We can anser these questions, says the G'ro, with a Sifri. The Sifri differentiates between the words "ve'Hoyoh" and "Yih'yeh" in that the former takes immediuate effect, whereas the latter refers to some time in the future.

Consequently, bearing in mind that the Torah uses the word "ve'Hoyoh" with regard to Avraham's change of name, and "Yih'yeh" with regard to that of Ya'akov, the above question is answered. Avram was to become Avraham immediately, which is why G-d never again referred to him as Avraham. Ya'akov, on the other hand, would only change to Yisrael some time in the future; therefore, in the interim, G-d still refers to him as Ya'akov.

True, the G'ro concludes, the Gemara might just as well have given this answer: it preferred to answer that G-d Himself still called him Ya'akov (which itself is based on the first answer, as we expalined).


What remains unclear however, is from when Ya'akov's name is irrevocably changed to Yisrael. Perhaps when Mashi'ach comes.

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