From our Hebrew School Director Liora Ramati
Lech Lecha, this week’s Torah portion, teaches us how to deal with life trials. Abraham succeeded with all his trials. We can imagine him like a big and powerful vehicle that drives forward and continues ahead through all the obstacles that are placed in his way. This powerful vehicle, named Abraham, paved, and cleared the rode for all of us so we can continue in his path easily.
Abraham’s faith was tested many times and together they establish a picture of Abraham as a person whose faith was genuine. Each of Abraham’s tests can be a teaching for us. Today I want to talk about 3 of these tests and teachings:
One of Abraham’s tests was when Abraham left Haran, where he lived, for an unknown destination at G-d’s direction to which the lesson that can be learned is to trust G-d with our future even if he sends us to leave our family, home and land.
Today, so many of our man and women in Israel are leaving their homes and going to battle for our future for us to have a safe land we can call home.
Lech Lecha can be translated as: Go to yourself, go to your truth.
It is very hard to detach oneself from the body and soul.
G-d teaches us how to do it through Abraham experience: starting from the easiest to the hardest. The Physical part is usually easier to overcome but the soul is the hardest to detach. I know that too very well! When I left Israel, it was hard, but the hardest of all was to leave my family and friends behind.
Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, a philosopher, doctor, and a Spanish Jewish poet, said it perfectly: “I am in the west, but my heart is in the east.”
It is possible for us to go forward as we light the way of the soul from the back. The soul is having difficulties leaving home, that is why G-d commanded Abraham to first leave his country then his city and lastly the place he calls home, house of his parents, his childhood. That is why the order is backwards starting with the far and ending with the closest to our heart. It just makes it a little easier.
The second test was when, at G-d’s command, Abraham circumcised himself and every male in his family. The lesson we can learn from it is that sometimes in life we must act simply in obedience to G-d, even if we don’t understand the significance or the logic of what we are doing. A Bris is when a child is being transformed before our very eyes, from an Arel into a Mahul, from an outsider to a member of the covenantal community. This brings us back to Sinai, where we entered our national Brit with G-D.
Other than the painful act of cutting the Orla there is also a beautiful tradition of using a special chair for the Sandak, the Jewish godfather.
According to the Midrash, Eliyahu Hanavi attends every bris. Before Eliyahu rose to heaven and assumed the role of an angel, he was the prophet responsible for admonishing the wicked monarchs Achav and Izevel. Eliyahu was a zealot for G-d’s honor and accused the Jewish people of abandoning the commandment of Brit Milah. As a response, G-d decreed that Eliyahu would be present at every bris to see that we indeed fulfill the commandment. Hazal, our sages, therefore instituted the custom that there should be a seat of honor for Eliyahu at every bris and he is called the “Angel of the Covenant,” since he attends and attests to every bris. Therefore, the chair that the baby is placed upon before the bris is referred to as the chair of Eliyahu.
Yoram Taharlev, an Israeli poet, lyricist, and author wrote a beautiful song: “With His Hands He Will Bring”, that was based on a true story when he was a journalist in the 60’s. He loved telling the story whenever he performed how he met a man is his 50’s when he went to the Getto of Ramla in Israel when the new immigrants went to live there, and it was a very poor area.
He saw a man sitting outside of his poor house and he asked him about his profession. The man took him inside his shed to show him a chair of Eliyahu Hanavi – Elijha the Prophet, that he built. And then said he was a carpenter. He told him his story:
In Morocco I used to make furniture for temples and when I made Aliya to Israel, I made this chair and went to all the temples to ask for work, but they all said they did not need me but promised they would call me if they did.
So, he sat and waited… And hoped that one day someone would find him and his chair and would recognize his talent and redeem him from his troubles.
Teharlev always told this story and one day after one of his shows a woman approached him and told him she thinks she knows the man he was talking about. She told him: “I used to live in Ramla and one day my friend married an Arab fisherman and when she gave birth to a baby boy no one wanted to come since the dad was an Arab. Finally, a Chabad rabbi agreed to do the Bris, but he said he needed a chair of Elisha, so the Arab dad found the carpenter which had the chair, and he was happy to give it to him and to the Rabbi. He said that the chair was a gift for the Mitzvah he did.
Sometimes in life we work for something and wait to see the result of our hard work only to wait for a while until we get to see it turn to a blessing, not only for us but for others.
The 3rd test was when Abraham was faced with helping his nephew, Lot after he was captured. Abraham took Lot even though he was supposed to leave his family behind.
Abraham heard that his nephew had been taken captive by the 4 kings who captured Sodom and Gomorrah and took him towards Damascus. Even though Lot was his nephew and not his brother. Even though there had been a great conflict between them, still Abram acted toward him as a brother, placing himself in danger to rescue him.
The Yalkut Me’am Lo’ez writes that the commandment of Ransoming Captives is more important than giving charity to the poor. When a person is in captivity, his suffering is worse than death. It is worse than hunger or other troubles since the captor can at any moment kill the prisoner by the sword or by starving him to death. One who ransoms a prisoner rescues him from these troubles. When it comes to ransoming captives, even a moment’s delay is considered like bloodshed.
The word for brother/sister has a beautiful meaning:
אח- אחות- לאחות- Hach- Lehachot – to stitch together, to patch, to unite.
אחוה – Hachva – brotherhood!
We learn and see how even though there was great division in our nation for a while and brothers and sisters were fighting with each other, now, in time of need we unite. When two people, brothers, friends had experienced a disagreement they should purify their hearts, as if there had never been a conflict. In time of trouble, one may not ignore a friend. Bnei Israel Arevim ze laze- All of Israel is responsible for one another!
May we stay united in good days that will soon come our way! Amen, Ken Yehi Ratzon!
Beth Moshe Congregation is filled with generations of South Florida families with roots and traditional values.