Every nation has its own currency, often associated with a particular ruler. On it is usually engraved a theme which expresses a most cherished ideal and belief.

American coins, for example, bear the motto “In G‑d We Trust” on the “heads” side. This affirms that our country was built on faith in G‑d and in religious unity. On the other side is engraved “E Pluribus Unum,” which represents the ideal of unity in diversity, asserting that we grew great thanks to the many groups from all parts of the world who came to these shores and together built our country. This motto also refers to the unity of the fifty states that comprise the United States of America.

The Midrash (Rabbah 39:11) explains the pasuk “I will make your name great” to mean that Avraham would mint his own money and that his coinage would be accepted in the world.

Now, what kind of coin did Avraham issue? What theme did he inscribe on both sides? The rabbis offer the following description: “Zakein uzekeinah mitzad echad — “On one side of the coin there was the image of an old man and an old woman”-- “ubachur ubetulah mitzad sheini,” — “and on the other side that of a youth and a maiden” (Bava Kama 97b).

This unusual design, which appeared on the coin of Avraham, and conveys an important message. It addresses itself to the bachur ubetulah — to the builders of the future — to the man and woman of tomorrow. It urges them not to break with the wisdom of the past, nor to dissociate from the traditions of the zakein uzekeinah —the elders who preceded them.

No human being can claim that he is a completely independent entity. Each of us represents the total experience of those who came before us; and we, in turn, will add a little something to that experience and pass it on to those who will come after us. We are but a small link in an endless chain; and it is our duty to be a true and loyal link in that chain.

If one looks only on one side of the coin, one sees only the bachur ubetulah — vigorous and enthusiastic youth moving steadily ahead. To them the future belongs; they will inherit the earth and subdue it. But when the coin is turned there is the image of the zakein uzekeinah — the parents and grandparents or more remote ancestors, who are responsible for a great share of the progress that is now being made.

This is the message of Avraham’s coin. It urges that there must be no gap between the old and the young. We are of the same metal and design, the products of the same history and tradition.

The enthusiasm and energy of youth must be blended with the wisdom and piety of the past to ensure the Jewish future.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, you are a king and a queen (see Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer, 16) who together are forming their kingdom, and as such, you too make coinage. I urge you to mint your coinage to resemble the coinage of our first Patriarch Avraham Avinu. On one side should be the bachur ubetulah — the young man and young lady who are setting out to build a world, and the images of the zakein uzekeinah — the old man and woman — should be minted on the other side.

The message implied by the syntheses of the engravings on the coin is that you the bachur ubetulah — the young couple —will always bear in mind the words of King Shlomo, the wisest of all men: “Hear my child the discipline of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother” (Proverbs 1:8). With this approach the “coin” minted by you, my dear Chatan and Kallah, will circulate widely and bring material and spiritual success.


To some people the custom of addressing the Chatan and Kallah is tainted with a yield to modernity. More than once I was questioned about it and my usual response was that if it is acceptabe for the Lubavitcher Rebbe to do it, it is acceptable for me.

In the early years of his leadership, it was customary for a Chatan and Kallah to have yechidut — a private audience — with the Rebbe. As the community grew there would be a yechidut k’lali — a general (public) audience — during which the Rebbe would address a group of Chatanim and Kallot who were going to be wed or who had recently gotten married.

In retrospect, however, it dawned upon me that the originator of this custom was not the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but Al-mighty G‑d Himself.

The first Jewish couple in the history of our people was Avraham and Sarah. We are told of their marriage at the end of last week’s Parshah and in this week’s Parshah they are setting out on their journey in life and establishing their family and religious identity. The first thing we are told is that at the outset of their journey G‑d delivers a charge to the couple. So if it was proper for Hashem to do so, it was not a concession to modernity but an age-old custom and we surely have the right and obligation to emulate Him.

As Avraham and Sarah are preparing for their journey through life and seeking to lay the foundation for their progeny, Hashem gives them some important points to serve as guideposts. These points were offered to help them in their endeavor and they remain relevant to every young couple starting out.

Hashem says to them: In order to go out and successfully establish your religious personality and realize your vision in life, you must leave artzecha — your land, moladetecha — your birthplace and beit avicha — your father’s house.

What exactly do these three things represent?

“Land” refers to the customs and conventions of society. The truly religious personality cannot concern himself with what others think about him, nor can he be troubled by what contemporary society considers to be the proper way. The concept of “hakol keminhag hamedinah” (Bava Batra 2a) — “all is according to the custom of the land,” or “in Rome do as the Romans do” — for religious Jews applies to some monetary issues and business dealings, but not to one’s relationship to Hashem. The mores of society often stifle the religious aspirations of the true seeker, and he who truly seeks G‑d must often ignore societal trends.

“Birthplace” refers to the habits acquired from the moment of birth. Many habits of thought and of deed are detrimental to the religious life. He who wishes to lead a Torah-oriented lifestyle must be willing at times to leave behind some of the erroneous character traits he acquired in his youth or which derive from his inborn nature.

“Your father’s house” refers to family and friends who may mock and ridicule the strivings and aspirations of the religious personality. The religious life is often an unpopular one, frequently a lonely one, but he who wishes to reach a pinnacle in Yiddishkeit and in his relationship with Hashem must be ready to leave behind those who do not understand or who do not wish to understand.

In the parshah we see a new title for Avraham. He is described as “ha’ivri” — an “Ivri,” from the word “eiver” (עֵבֶר) — the other side (14:13, Rashi). Literally this means that he came to Canaan from the other side of the Euphrates. The Sages, however, interpret the title in a deeper sense, too. He was on one side of a moral and spiritual divide, and the rest of the world was on the other (Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 42:8). Righteous people must be ready to endure such isolation. Popularity is pleasant but it is also a snare, because the natural desire to win others’ approval can easily lead people to bend their principles. Avraham and Sarah were now given the challenge of moving to the other side — not only of their native river, but of anyone who preferred not to acknowledge G‑d’s sovereignty.

Avraham had a direction in his life; in all his many wanderings he had a goal, a guidepost. “Avraham went as G‑d spoke to him” (12:4). He was unconcerned with the popularity of his way, whether his neighbors would approve or not. When conviction and convenience conflicted, Avraham’s choice was apparent. His one consideration was to do “as G‑d spoke to him.” His criterion was principle, whether the result was to be exile or wealth, sacrifice or honor — all of which he had.

Hopefully, as children of our great patriarch Avraham Avinu — Avraham our father — and the great matriarch Sarah Imeinu — Sarah our mother — you, dear Chatan and Kallah, will emulate them and lead a life where the primary goal will be always to do as “Hashem has spoken.”

Bear in mind that a Torah life is a long journey and may at times be a difficult one. Religious life is not without torment and without trouble. This is, of course, evident from what we are told in this parshah about the trials and tribulations Avraham and Sarah endured. But the journey is worthwhile, for Avraham and Sarah were happy and content all the days of their life. For their spiritual accomplishments, unexpectedly, G‑d rewarded them also with material wealth. Follow in their footsteps and enjoy all the best, materially and spiritually.

(הרב אברהם שי' קעלמאן עם הוספות)