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by Daneal Weiner
Based on the Torah of Rav Moshe Shapirah.
Well, I did the summer camp hashgacha thing and guess what? I interviewed at a residential drug and alcohol rehab facility for Jewish youth, H’y, and they took me in- uh- I mean I got the job. America went drug happy in the 60’s, so, 40 years is about right for infiltration into religious Jewish circles. Like camp, it’s another 13 hour day, but in catering to 15, instead of 550, I have a little more time to myself. [As I understand it we could easily end up with 550 kids at our doorstep, but, someone would have to admit that there’s a problem.] So this week I’m going for it! I’m going for something short, so there is a great chance I may actually get through it. My library is still in Israel and all I have are my wits. Wait, I think I only packed half of them.
Based on the Torah of Rav Moshe Wolfson.
Rav Pinchas of Korits, zy’a, would light up with excitement for Shabbos Lech Lecha
and no doubt,
He’d say that Parshas Bereishis and Noach had in them upsetting content, Adam’s sin and Noach’s flood. Those parshas, spanning the first 2000 years of history, were years of tohu, turbulent times. Last and this week’s parsha brings world history across that millennia threshold and into a new world order. And, of course, we are introduced to the man who carries us over the threshold, our father, Avraham Aveinu.
Speaking of introductions, Ramban would like to know where it is? Lech Lecha opens with Hashem telling Avraham to take a hike. Who is he? At the opening of last week’s parsha we are told there is a man named Noach who walked with Hashem. Very nice. This week we take off with a running start. A walking start anyway.
Rav Wolfson says that being that Avraham is the first Jew, what introductions need there be? The first Jew on the planet and the Torah has to tell you he’s a good guy? A Jew is good to the core. Certainly at the core. If the Torah told us this Jew is good, maybe we’d think another Jew wasn’t.
The first lesson we learn is that if a Jew gives off the appearance of being bad or of participating in inappropriate things, as deep as the flaws may seem, they are superficial to the fact that that descendant of Avraham, that branch of the tree has the same roots as every other branch. At the core of every Jew is the kind of goodness that needs no introduction. Our job, as was Avraham’s through his 10 tests, is to bring our good potential into reality.
Spending some time on this we can’t help but marvel, what a remarkable thing it is. What do you think of when you look at a seed? Not a sunflower seed because then you think of a row of Israelis sitting behind you in a movie theater but any other seed, what are you looking at? That little seed contains a robust tree, which will grow from it, every branch, twig and leaf, and the hundreds of fruits which will grow. Those fruits contain thousands more seeds. Those thousands of seeds are potentially thousands more trees and fruits and seeds and on and on. They all trace back to that one seed.
Avraham Aveinu was every single Jew until the end of time. And we do the tracing back. Just as Avraham Aveinu contained every Jew, every Jews goes back to Avraham. But more than that. Our connection is not just on paper. There is a spark, a feature, in every Jew of the original Avraham Aveinu. It’s a signature of our Jewishness. As it says in Gemorah Yevamos, there are three answers to who is a Jew. One who has shame, who is merciful and who does good deeds. If one of these is missing than we are not talking about a descendant of Avraham Aveinu. This parsha is the beginning of Am Yisrael and the final journey towards world reparation.
Staying in Lech Lecha, after Avraham defeats the four kings and saves Lote, Hashem reassures him that his merits were not used up and, in fact, his reward will be very great. Avraham says to Hashem, “What can You give me seeing that I go childless and the steward of my house is the Damascusian (Damascuser) Eliezer.” This comment needs to be understood since previously Hashem had promised to make Avraham a great nation and that means offspring. We can’t say that Avraham didn’t believe that promise so what is it Avraham is saying here?
Following the lead of the Yonason ben Uziel, he says Avraham said to Hashem that Eliezer is hoping to inherit from him.
Avraham’s pervasive attribute was chesed. That great goodness in him made him willing, even wanting, to forgo the literal meaning of Hashem’s blessing and assume Hashem meant children spiritually speaking. Not only did Eliezer run Avraham’s household but he also was his primary disciple and was and would continue teaching Avraham’s Torah to the world. Since Eliezer was all this to and for Avraham, and since he desired to inherit from Avraham, Avraham wished him to be the inheritor. He looked passed Hashem’s literal promise and understood Him to mean Eliezer, his student… his son.
Introducing a famous few words between the Baal Hatanya, zy’a, and Rav Baruch of Medzivuz, zy’a. Rav Baruch said to the Baal Hatanya, “You’re starting with me, the grandson of the holy Ba’al Shem Tov.” The Baal Hatanya responded, “Yes, your are his grandson in body, but I am his grandson in spirit. For he taught the Magid of Mezeritch and the Magid taught me!” As we say in the Shema every day, v’shinantem l’vanecha, not only does it mean to teach our children but it also defines that those whom we teach are considered as our children. Avraham heard Hashem’s promise of being a great nation to be 100% possible without every having a single child because he taught Eliezer.
Nevertheless, Hashem’s intention was even in the simplest sense of His words. Avraham would have physical descendants. Because the way Hashem set up the system, biological offspring receive traits from the parents that do not get come by way of the soul. Avraham’s holiest attributes would never be passed on to Eliezer even as sole inheritor to his fortune.
Hashem responded to Avraham saying Eliezer would not inherit him but a child that he would give birth to. He will inherit it all. In this week’s parsha that child is born. Some of Avraham’s negative traits are siphoned off into Yishmael. The essence of what is a Jew goes to Yitschak. Avraham is every Jew. Yitschak is the first link in the chain.
So any and every grandchild of Avraham Aveinu has those same attributes that endeared Avraham to Hashem over every other human on the planet. The attributes which require no introduction. If a Jew may have acquired other attributes antithetical to his/her essence, it is not a contamination that reaches their core. It is only surface dirt which needs to be wisked away. Every Jew is good to the core.
Hashem chose Avraham and took him out of Ur Casdim.
Hashem chose Yitschak and took him out of the Akeida.
Hashem chose Israel and took them out of Egypt.
They are all one in the same.
Every week, Shabbos is a new beginning. These weeks, these Shabboses are special new beginnings. It’s the beginning of every Jew. It’s the beginning of a human chain of goodness and compassion that will span the rest of human history. It’s the beginning of the end, the final redemption of Israel and the reign and Name of Hashem permeating the world.
Tradition says Eliyahu Hanavi will introduce the Mashiach 3 days in advance, but, then again, we believe the Mashiach will come this very day.
Maybe it’s because there is a kind of good news that needs no introduction.
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