פ’ לך לך – תשע”ה
Volume 6, Issue 3
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
From Parshas Lech Lecha until the end of the entire Chumash Breishis, the Torah unveils the legend of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The Torah relates a chain of difficult events through which Avraham proved why he was chosen by Hashem to spread faith throughout the land. In this parsha, according to Chazal, Avraham was tested ten times beginning with “Get out of your country, and from your kindred and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (12:1), ending with the command in Parshas Vayerah: “Take now your son, your only son Yitzchak, whom you love and get into the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering” (22:2). Both the first and last commandments were presented to Avraham with the words Lech Lecha (go forth).
לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת
“To your seed will I give this land…” (12:7)
Why is the land called Eretz Yisrael and not Eretz Avraham or Eretz Yitzchak? Were it to be called Eretz Avraham, Ishmael would have the right to demand a share for himself; the same for Eretz Yitzchak for then Esav would demand his share as well. It is called Eretz Yisrael to indicate that it belongs specifically to the children of Israel. (Rabbi Yechezkel of Kuzmir)
אם מחוט ועד שרוך הנעל ואם אקח מכל אשר לך
“If so much as a thread to a shoe strap; or if I shall take anything of yours…” (14:23)
QUESTION: What does the donning of a tallit and tefillin during shacharit prayers have to do with this verse?
ANSWER: The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that because Avraham refused to take from the King of Sedom even a thread or a shoe strap, his children merited to receive two mitzvot from Hashem: the mitzvah of putting a thread of techeilet in their tzitzit and the mitzvah of putting retzu’ot (straps) in their tefillin.
According to the Gemara (Brachot 26b) Avraham originated the concept of davening to Hashem each morning.[shacharit]. Therefore, during his tefillah, we wear the tallit and tefillin.
When Avraham spoke to the King of Sedom, he first mentioned the thread and afterwards the shoe strap; thus, we first don the tallit, which has in it the thread of techeilet, and afterwards the tefillin, which have the leather straps. (Ateres Zekeinim)
ויאמר הבט נא השמימה וספר הכוכבים אם תוכל לספר אתם ויאמר לו כה יהיה זרעך
“And He said: ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if you are able to count them’; and He said to him; ‘So shall your seed be.’” (15:5)
QUESTION: In what ways are the Jewish people like stars?
ANSWER: From earth, the stars appear very small. However, in heaven, the stars are actually immense. Hashem assured Avraham that although on earth the nations of the world consider the Jewish people very small and of minor significance, in reality, in heaven, they are of primary importance. (Divrei Shaul)
The stars twinkle in the high heavens. By their light, even one who walks in the darkness of night will not blunder. Every Jew, man or woman, possess enough moral and spiritual light to influence friends and acquaintances and bring them out of the darkness into G-d’s spiritual light. (HaYom Yom)
When one stands on the ground and looks up to the sky, the stars appear to be minute specks. In reality, the stars are larger than the earth. As we approach them we begin to appreciate their size and beauty. The same is true of a Jew. Superficially, one may appear to be insignificant. However, as one becomes closer and gets to know more about him, one can perceive the great and beautiful pintele yid – spark of Judaism – that is in him. (Ba’al Shem Tov)
ויוצא את החוצה…ויאמר לו כה יהיה זרעך
“And He took him outside…and He said to him, so too, will be your descendants.” (15:5)
Rashi cites the Talmudic statement (Nedarim 32a) that Hashem told Avraham to discount the effects of astrological influence. Even if there is a sign in the stars that you will not have children, you will rise above this and merit having children. From here, the Gemara (Shabbos 156a) states, “There is no mazal for Israelites.” This then is one meaning of the latter half of the verse, “So too, will be your descendants.” The Jewish people need not fear any negative predictions in the stars.
Some people become nervous if someone predicts a negative future for them through astrology, chirology (palm reading), cards etc. Trust in Hashem and awareness of His unlimited power will free a person from any fears of such predictions. Prayer and the merit of good deeds will be able to change a negative destiny to a positive one. (Megaleh Amukos)
והוא יהיה פרא אדם
“And he will be a wild man…” (16:12)
In Parshas V’zos Haberacha, the Torah states: הופיע מהר פארן, Hashem appeared from Mount Paran (Devarim 33:2). Rashi teaches that Hashem first offered the Torah to the children of Yishmael, who dwelled in Mount Paran. The word פארן has the connotation of פאר, beauty. The suffix nun means a person who has that characteristic. For example, גזל means robbery; a גזלן is a robber. Had the children of Yishmael chosen to accept the Torah, all of its beauty could have been theirs. Instead they chose to reject it – but this choice was not forced on them; it was their own. In this they followed the example of their forefather, Yishmael.
In our parsha, the angel told Hagar that her son would be פרא, wild; however, the letters of that word also spell the word פאר, beauty. This signifies that Yishmael was not forced to become the wild man he turned out to be; he could have become the epitome of beauty. To his detriment, he chose to take the path of the wild man instead, a choice that was emulated by his offspring when they refused to accept the Torah. It was his life choices that brought about that eventuality. (Vedebarta Bam)