Lekh Lekha 5770

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Bekah Hakimian

October 31, 2009/13 Heshvan 5770

Imagine this. One day you are told by a total stranger to pack all of your belongings, pick up and leave your life back home. You are told to trust this stranger, even though clearly this person is someone you don’t know. Imagine this happening thousands of years ago, and that stranger is a voice you are hearing, and the voice just so happens to be God. Now remove yourself from this picture and place Abram in this scene.

At the end of last week’s parsha, we are introduced to the decedents of Noah’s children, and those descendants are Abram, Sarai, and Lot. In Lech Lecha (which means, “get out” or “leave from here”), God promises Abram that a special land will be set aside for him and his descendants, and that Abram will be a father of a great nation. Abram and his family, which includes his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, travel from Haran to Canaan. On his journeys in the land, Abram sets up an altar to God in Alon Moreh between Bethel and Ai.

A famine in Canaan forces Abram to seek food in Egypt. Upon entering Egypt, Abram declares that Sarai is his sister, not his wife; she is then taken into Pharaoh’s palace. Abram realizes good fortune from this deception, but God afflicts Pharaoh with plagues. Pharaoh realizes that Sarai is really Abram’s wife. Pharaoh sends Abram, his wife, and their possessions out of Egypt.

God once again appears to Abram and promises him progeny and land. This convent is confirmed when Abram brings sacrifices. At this point, God foretells the Israelite bondage in Egypt. Sarai, who has not been able to bear children, gives her handmaid Hagar to Abram as a concubine. Hagar bears Ishmael. God repeats his covenant to Abram, but now requires Abram and all the males of his household to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant. Abram at this point is 99 years old.

The parsha concludes with a final covenant. God appeared before Abram and said, “I am El Shaddai; walk before Me and be perfect” (17:1). God tells Abram he will be a father of a multitude of nations and a nation so great that not even all the grains of sand could measure up to his descendants. God then changes Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah. The name change was a way to show that God will remember the covenant and Abraham and Sarah will always have a part of God. The name change was minor yet very significant. In Hebrew, the letter Hay often is another name for God. By adding the letter Hay to Abram and Sarai, is in a sense placing God’s name in each of their names.

In this parsha, Abram is called an Ivri, a Hebrew. Rashi explains the term by its root letters, ayin, vet, resh, meaning “other.” He translates the phrase as: “the one who came from the other side of the Euphrates River.” This is interpreted as: The whole world stood on one side and “Abram the Ivri stood on the other.

Through this all, Abraham pasts the entire test God set before him. He leaves his home, becomes a figure head in this land, has is named changed, is circumcised and has a child at the age of 100. There would to be one more test on Abraham later on in the Torah, but I don’t want to ruin next week’s parsha. But what we can learn from this is that with a little faith in people, good things could come your way.

So, if you hear a voice in your head telling you too go travel to a new place and start a new life, I think we need to talk. Shabbat Shalom.

Seventh-Day Stretch:

#6: From this point on, I am generally using A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice by Rabbi Isaac Klein and Kitzur Shulchan Arukh Mekor Chayim by Rabbi Chayim David HaLevi. If you have any practical questions regarding Halakha, please consult your rabbi; ideas presented here are not meant to provide halakha l’ma’aseh (practical halakha) but rather an overview of how Shabbat works and ideas to enhance its observance.

While there are multiple possibilities of how Shabbat begins, the obligatory candle lighting is one of the most common ways in which one sanctifies the beginning of Shabbat. In the words of Heschel, “just as creation began with the word ‘let there be light!’ so does the celebration of creation begin with the kindling of lights.” While Karaites take the law of not kindling a fire on Shabbat to mean that literally, light should not permeate the house on Shabbat, Rabbinic Jews take the idea of oneg Shabbat (delight of Shabbat) seriously, and candle lighting is meant to bring joy to the home on Shabbat. There is also considerable thought behind the idea that lighting candles brings peace to the home. When the time comes, we set down our weekly occupations, and we have a moment of tranquility while bringing the light of God, Torah, and Shabbat into our homes.

There are many traditions behind the amount of candles one lights. It is fairly standard to light at least two candles, one for shamor and one for zakhor, the first words of the Shabbat commandment in Deuteronomy and Exodus, respectively. Some families have the tradition of lighting one candle for each family member.

When we light candles, we cover our eyes as we say the berakha. The reason for this is because normally, we say a berakha before we do the mitzvah. However, saying the berakha for lighting candles would automatically mean that Shabbat has started, and we would be unable to light candles! So we light the candles, cover our eyes, say the berakha, and then we open our eyes and enjoy the aura of holiness that the light of the candles brings to our Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom U-mevorach!