(Torah Portion Lech Lecha ) Brave!
Our forefather Avraham earned the title of ďThe forbearer of the Jewish peopleĒ because of his complete belief in the Almighty and his tireless efforts of spreading monotheism and kindness throughout civilization.
Avraham wasnít born into a family of believers in G-d. On the contrary; they were so committed to idolatry that when Avraham proclaimed his belief in the Almighty, his father, Terach, turned him over to the wicked King Nimrod who gave Avraham an ultimatum; if he places his faith in idols he would live and if he chooses G-d, he would be cast into a fiery furnace.
Avraham chose G-d and was publicly cast into a huge inferno; miraculously he emerged unscathed. This miracle witnessed by the masses catapulted Avrahamís stature tremendously within society. However, his own father, who you would think would be the most impressed with Avrahamís devotion and tenacity, actually continued his idolatrous ways.
Only after Avraham left his homeland and family and settled for quite a while in the Land of Israel as instructed by G-d does the Torah hint that Terach left his idolatrous ways and connected to G-d.
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. learns from this that often a person in close proximity of someone who stands for something spiritually compelling discounts the reality while those who are unrelated absorb and are affected by the message.
Only after Avraham left his fatherís proximity was Terach able to step back and process the message and awesomeness of his son Avraham and make the necessary changes in his beliefs and embrace the monotheistic belief in G-d.
The Torah records that Avraham had a disagreement with his nephew Lot whom he had cared for from the time he became orphaned. Avraham then told him that they must split and go their separate ways. The question raised is how did this happen? After all, Avraham was able to influence so many people. Why couldnít he have a positive impact on his nephew Lot?
I saw an answer from the Skolya Rebbe. When we focus in on their point of contention we can understand why Avraham felt parting ways with Lot was the only solution.
The Torah tells us that a feud broke out between Avrahamís shepherds and Lotís shepherds. Avrahamís shepherds were extremely careful that their flock should not graze in property belonging to others, while Lotís shepherds allowed their flocks to graze there.
When Lotís shepherds were taken to task about their stealing, they claimed that they werenít really stealing since G-d had promised the Land of Israel to Avraham, and since he was old, and had no other descendants, his inheritance of the Land of Israel would eventually go to his nephew Lot. Since the land would eventually belong to Lot, they felt that grazing in the fields was permitted.
When Avraham heard that Lot used contorted reasoning to justify his stealing, he felt that he would be unable to have a positive influence on him and if they would stay together, chances are that Lot would have a negative effect on his encampment.
They separated amicably, and not surprisingly, Lot chose to reside in the district of the beautiful but morally corrupt cities of Sedom and Amorah. The skewed thinking and crooked approach of these cities was in line with Lotís way of thinking, and they even appointed him as a judge.
Lotís departure did not diminish Avrahamís care for him and when Avraham heard that Lot was captured in a fierce war, he risked his life fighting to save and free Lot.
Even after Lot saw the miracles that occurred when Avraham saved him, he didnít change his distorted outlook to join Avrahamís holy environment. Rather, he resettled in the corrupt city of Sedom.
Why was Terach able to eventually extricate himself from idol worship and join Avrahamís belief in G-d, while Lot couldnít creep out from the filth of Sedom and rejoin Avraham?
Perhaps the difference between the two is that logic dictates that idolatry is useless and worthless. Even if someone like Terach, who was steeped in idolatry, has exposure to the truth of G-d, it is only a matter time before he will have the fortitude to implement a shift his position.
Lot on the other hand, had indeed been influenced by Avraham and was a believer in G-d. However, his passion for money, success, self indulgence and living in Sedomís hedonistic environment skewed his thinking and blurred his vision towards that which was holy and meaningful. No matter how miraculous or compelling the occurrence, his commitment to corrupt values would not allow him break out of it.
Despite Lotís failures, G-d sent angels to save him when He destroyed the cities of Sedom and Amorah because of his association with the righteous Avraham. Although Lot separated himself physically from Avraham, deep down, he identified with and had the greatest regard and respect for Avraham and his commitment to G-dliness.
The message is that even if one feels or is distant from what the Torah expects from him, if he appreciates and values those who are committed to the ideals of the Torah he creates a bond with them which generates a safeguard and protection for all!
Two Psalms to recite on behalf of our brethern in Israel:
1. For the conductor, a psalm by David.
2. May the Hashem answer you on a day of distress; may the name of the God of Jacob fortify you.
3. May He send your aid from His sanctuary, and may He support you from Zion.
4. May He remember all your offerings and may He accept your burnt offerings forever.
5. May He give you as your heart [desires], and may He fulfill all your counsel.
6. Let us sing praises at your salvation, and let us assemble in the name of our God; may the Hashem fulfill all your requests.
7. Now I know that the Hashem saved His anointed; He answered him from His holy heavens; with the mighty acts of salvation from His right hand.
8. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we, mention and call out the name of the Hashem our God.
9. They kneel and fall, but we rise and gain strength.
10. O Hashem our King, answer us on the day we call.
A song of ascents. From the depths I have called You, O Hashem.
2. O Hashem, hearken to my voice; may Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
- O God, if You keep [a record of] iniquities, O Hashem, who will stand?
4. For forgiveness is with You, in order that You be feared.
5. I place my hope in Hashem; my soul hoped, and in His word I yearned.
6. My soul yearns for Hashem, among those who await the dawn, those who await the dawn.
7. Israel, hope to the Hashem, for kindness is with the Hashem and much redemption is with Him.
8. And He will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
A Prayer for protection:
O Guardian of Israel safeguard the remnant of Israel; let not Israel be destroyed, those who proclaim: Hear O Israel: Hashem is our G-d, Hashem, the One and Only.
Let us examine our ways and investigate them and return to You for Your right hand is extended to accept those who return.
Our Father our King, be gracious and answer us, though we have no worthy deeds treat us with charity and kindness and save us.
Hashem save! May the King answer us on the day we call.
Our brothers, the entire house of Israel, who are found in distress and captivity, who are situated whether at sea or on land, may the Omnipresent One have mercy on them and remove them from distress to relief, from darkness to light, from subjugation to redemption, now, speedily and at a time that comes soon, and let us say: Amen.
Have a most enjoyable, peaceful and restful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks