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Lech Lecha in a Nutshell

Lech Lecha in a Nutshell

Genesis 12:1–17:27


G‑d speaks to Abram, commanding him, “Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” There, G‑d says, he will be made into a great nation. Abram and his wife, Sarai, accompanied by his nephew Lot, journey to the land of Canaan, where Abram builds an altar and continues to spread the message of a one G‑d.

A famine forces the first Jew to depart for Egypt, where beautiful Sarai is taken to Pharaoh’s palace; Abram escapes death because they present themselves as brother and sister. A plague prevents the Egyptian king from touching her, and convinces him to return her to Abram and to compensate the brother-revealed-as-husband with gold, silver and cattle.

Back in the land of Canaan, Lot separates from Abram and settles in the evil city of Sodom, where he falls captive when the mighty armies of Chedorlaomer and his three allies conquer the five cities of the Sodom Valley. Abram sets out with a small band to rescue his nephew, defeats the four kings, and is blessed by Malki-Zedek the king of Salem (Jerusalem).

G‑d seals the Covenant Between the Parts with Abram, in which the exile and persecution (galut) of the people of Israel is foretold, and the Holy Land is bequeathed to them as their eternal heritage.

Still childless ten years after their arrival in the Land, Sarai tells Abram to marry her maidservant Hagar. Hagar conceives, becomes insolent toward her mistress, and then flees when Sarai treats her harshly; an angel convinces her to return, and tells her that her son will father a populous nation. Ishmael is born in Abram’s eighty-sixth year.

Thirteen years later, G‑d changes Abram’s name to Abraham (“father of multitudes”), and Sarai’s to Sarah (“princess”), and promises that a son will be born to them; from this child, whom they should call Isaac (“will laugh”), will stem the great nation with which G‑d will establish His special bond. Abraham is commanded to circumcise himself and his descendants as a “sign of the covenant between Me and you.” Abraham immediately complies, circumcising himself and all the males of his household.

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Eliezer Zalmanov for November 14, 2016

Re: Malki-Zedek It may not have been built to the extent that it was later on, but the land could still have been inhabited, and there could certainly have been a king. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA November 12, 2016

Malki-Zedek How could there be a King of Jerusalem at that point in history? I have read elsewhere the alter on which Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac was on the site where the temple would later be built, which means it was in what would become Jerusalem, but the next week's Torah portion describes the trip to that site as though Abraham and Isaac are going through wilderness, not a city. So Jerusalem wasn't built yet. Right? Reply

Sorah Weiss Vernon Hills November 12, 2016

Hashem doesn't need any lessons. Hashem is the creator of all, and perfect.
As far as the Ahkeda killing Sarah... if she did have a heart attack because of the news, maybe She, although our "Torah Mothers are heavenly perfect", maybe she learned that treating Hagar harshly wasn't the way to go... I don't know, according to Torah, She did no wrong. Abraham losing Sorah could have been because he listened to a mortal human being (Sarah) instead of His word. Whatever... the Torah is powerful and needs to be respected and cherished. Hagar eventually ended up being the "mother" of a very angry jealous nation making up their own fake Koran. Their nasty work begins with a lie saying Abraham , their father, chose them, not Isaac. Now the world has to watch all the hate ooze-ing out of the Arab nations at Israel and the world. Reply

Anonymous Sarasota November 10, 2016

I grew up in a Yashiva in England and was blessed with a team of Rabbis yet there was no argument,what is written is what it is ,the written word of G-d and the way it is,all this thinking and multiple ideas of the way it could mean or should mean is just insane to me,simply put the Torah is the written word and not to be misunderstood end of story.Man has argued this since the time of the written Torah's creation, the meaning of each word.I think if we keep watering it all down and dilute G-d's word why not just become Goyim? and just make up another book like the Goyim did.I am not sure what is being taught today but it seems to be a lot of dilution going on,it scares me,i don't feel the solidarity yet i do feel an on going presence of antisemitism daily all around me.Yes I understand we are allowed to question but to those that have doubt or to be unsure of the Word,those people scare me.I am only one humble man,i was taught what i was taught to be right. Reply

Chanah Ariella Rosencrantz SEATTLE October 9, 2015

To Ruth B"H
As much as a parent would wish to ask Hashem to substitute their life for their child's, that is not halachically allowed. A person may not substitute their life for another's life, as Hashem has a different plan for each person. Reply

Malachi USA September 18, 2015

to ruth housman If you read the Sefer Yasher, you will see one of the reasons Iyov could have been punished, was because his injustice and cruelty towards Bnei Israel in Egypt. He was one of the main reasons they were enslaved and treated so cruelly. He was a got, after all... Reply

JOE BARNATHAN 11223 October 8, 2013

Ho old was Abraham when Hashem told him Lech Lecha End of Parashat: Noach: Terach took Abram, Sari and Lot to go to Canaan on the way they stopped in Haran
Lech Lecha M' Artzecha ibn Ezra opinion is Ur Kasdim (not Haran)
This is not to be confused with the Passuk that abram left Haran when was 75
Berit Ben HaBetarim Hashem tells Abram I am the one that took you out of Ur Kasdim ( not Haran)
Parashat BO Perek 12 Pasuk 40-41 and Beni Ysrael were enslaved for 430 years to the very Day
From Yitzchak Birth in the year 2048 to yetzait Mitzriam in 2448 is 400 years.
Abraham was 100 years old in 2048.
Subtract 430 from 2448 is 2018 Abraham is 70 years old when the Journey started the date was 15 Nisan and the place Hashem Spoke to Abraham Lech Lacha was Ur Kasdim.
Terach took Abraham Sari and lot on the way to Eretz Cannan at the request of Abraham when Abraham was 70 . they landed in haran and Abram helped his father living in Haran for 5 years Reply

melizabeth Sacramento, CA November 27, 2012

Did G-d cause the famine that Abraham reacted to by going to Egypt I am struggling with this idea right now. Did G-d specifically cause the famine just to test Abraham or was it at act of nature like those that occur in all our lives? Was Abraham smart or in a panic when he told Pharoah that Sarah was only his sister and not his wife? Was Sarah forced to obey Abraham by her position or was she complacient with the lie? I am behind on my bible reading. Peace. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma October 29, 2012

the test It could be G_d tested Abraham, he failed, and mercy followed anyway, as Raf suggests. But this does not explain The Book of Job, because JOB lost everything, ad had to submit to derisive friends he thought were loyal, and he lost his family, and in fact, that test seems to me, to have been inordinately cruel. A test of, what? It's a puzzling and often dark story.. So I am stumped, about JOB and think about this often. I can say, we all suffer, and those who are righteous among us, suffer too. And for me there is no question JOB was a most righteous man. Is this our "JOB", to figure all of this out, to dialogue about mercy and goodness, and G_d? Reply

Raf UK October 27, 2012

I see it another way entirely God tested Abraham - and this time he failed ( but God passed him anyway). Reply

Anonymous October 25, 2012

Dear Rabbi Yaacov This is a forum. In a forum one shares ideas. Anyone who considers that his way is the only way is mistaken. i have been to the yeshiva at Aish across the Wailing Wall. The students there are very nice, but not all that knowledgeable. I spent a few days with yeshiva students in Venice. Nice kids, but they too were not very knowledgeable. I have spent brief times with rabbis in far off places. For the most part they are knowledgeable. Others are not scholars, only rote learners. The one thing they have in common is the need to look correct , keep control, even when they are unaware.
As for Abraham, rabbis teach us how greater a person he was than Noah. It is always a derisive comparison. What rabbis don't realize is that making the comparison is in poor taste. If any one out there wants to do the yeshiva/Abraham study, I would recommend Tsfat.
Finally, like it or not, I find the Akeda objectionable. It killed Sarah. G-d learned a lesson. If yeshiva teaches otherwise, it doesn't change me. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma October 23, 2012

the alchemy of words and all names and naming I so agree, and I have written about this down the lines for a long time on Chabad and elsewhere. I too don't see anything humorous about The Akeda, and do see however that our English word laughter is contained by the word, slaughter. I simply do... these things come to me. Lot's lot in life wasn't so great and wasn't his wife turned into, a pillar of salt? And salt reminds me of The Covenant.

I do totally believe there is comic in cosmic as Ask Moses posted by Anonymous is saying.

I do find it very hard to believe anyone would seek God by being sacrificed, and at such a tender age. No I believe the response should have been, Take Me, instead. A father would say that, if he feared God and such a command. But the command itself is really strange. Why would God need such a sacrifice, except in very deep ways, we're all being sacrificed We see this in the heavy burden of sorrow that is inherent in being alive. I believe in You More, humor, as in it's not really over. In exist, exit. Reply

Rabbi Yaakov Nerenberg October 23, 2012

Gentlemen. May I respectfully request that you move to Jerusalem and attend a yeshiva. Study in depth about Abraham and the 10 trials that G-d put him through to prove his worthiness. Then you'll have your facts straight. Please just don't go on line and make assumptions. Reply

Anonymous w October 23, 2012

Richard i accept your take on the matter. I happen to think otherwise. That is what so great about the bible. There is lots of room for interpretation. We do know that Sarah laughed when G--d told her that she would conceive at 99m years old. Hence Isaac's name ' he laughs '. We also know that when she heard about the Akeda, Sarah died. In my interpretation, G-d gave Sarah too big a challenge. I think that Sarah's death was a lesson for Hashem, not to give challenges that were overpowering to individuals. G-d is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient. On Mount Sinai, Moses had to convince Hashem not to massacre the Israelites.And G-d listened. Reply

Richard Boca Raton, , Fl./USA October 22, 2012

I don't think so..... With all due respect to "Anonymous", I don't think that Isaac laughed at being saved from death...sacrificial or not, unless he just laughed in his sigh of relief. On thing about the Hebrew Bible is that reads very realistically in most of it (not counting miracles, of course!). Reply

Anonymous October 15, 2010

Ask Moses Uziel, there is an article at "Ask Moses" that backs up your assertion that it was Sarah who laughed. Be that as it may, , it is Isaac she is naming, not her birth experience. I think that Isaac may have had a well honed sense of humour. At the sacrifice, Isaac was looking forward to being sacrificed. He was 20-ish years old. He wanted as great a relationship with G-d as enjoyed by his father Abraham. So when the angel shouted "Stop", Isaac may have wisecracked, "Nice joke G-d." Isaac had a large following. It is quite possible that he had a great sense of humour. Joking can add years to your life because laughter is great medicine. Isaac's life was longer than Abraham's.
On a personal note, my mom's name was also Sarah. Her gravestone reads: Live Love Laugh Dance.
And check this. Would you believe that my father's name was Abraham?! Actually, it was Sam! I asked three rabbis about Isaac's name. I got four answers! Even G-d likes a laugh.
Have a great Shabbos! Reply

Uziel ben Avraham Aveinu Fort Worth, TX October 14, 2010

Re: Issac The reason he is named Issac is not for what he will do, but what his mother did. She laughed when told she would conceive, but she did indeed conceive. It is to remind Sarah of how she disbelieved in G-d's ability to make her be with child. Reply

Anonymous W October 14, 2010

Isaac I am not sure why Isaac was named ' wiil laugh '. In Kabbalah, Isaac represents the sefirot Gevurah on the Tree of Life. It stands for justice severity and discipline, and offsets Chesed/Lovingkindness/Abraham. Names are important as in prophetic in Kabbalah. Again i don 't see the fit in Isaac's name. By all accounts in Isaac's like including the Akeda, i don't see anything of a humorous nature. Reply

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