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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Lech Lecha - 101


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Parashat Lech Lecha begins with Bereshit Perek Yud-Beit (Genesis, Chapter 12) and continues through and includes Perek Yud-Zayin (Chapter 17).  In most cases, I use the translation of the Stone Edition Chumash.  However, for this week, I prefer to use Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch's translation.  The first three psukim of this Parashah provide a most interesting picture as shall be seen. 

  1. And God said unto Abram, isolate thyself from thy country and from thy birthplace and from the house of thy father, unto the land which I shall show thee.

  2. And I will make thee into a great nation and I will bless thee, and I would make thy name great; become thou a blessing.

  3. And I would bless them that bless thee, and who curseth thee will I curse; and though thee all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

A part of Rav Hirsch's commentary on these three pasukim is as follows: 

Considered more closely, the whole sum of Jewish history is given to Abraham in a nutshell in these three sentences.  In the first verse, Abraham appears merely as an individual "dare to be alone, to stand by yourself."  In the second verse, the nation already appears, but still by itself and without external contact or relation to the rest of the world.  In the third verse, the Jewish nation is shown in connection with other nations, the blessing of Abraham is already dependent on others blessing him, yea others can already venture to curse him.  Abraham's task was to isolate himself, to live alone with God.  Then a second stage, to create a people out of this Abraham.  If it is to come to pass that the existence of this people is to be a second creation of God's in history, then this people can only come to be a nation by way of homelessness.   God can bless people and nations, but that they should attain such a spiritual greatness to become called a model man, a model nation, that God can only wish, that depends on the faithful loyalty which is given to the laws of God.  In the same way it does not say "to be blessed" but rather "become a blessing."  In these words, the whole moral task is summarized, the accomplishment of which is the condition for the fulfillment of God's wish.  "O that your name should become great, that you become a blessing."  I would make you into a nation to which other nations have only to look to become conscious of what their task is, and this task, which you are to accomplish, in contrast to the efforts of all other nations, is "to become a blessing!"

All others strive, not to be a blessing, but rather to be blessed.  And this is especially the case with nations.  The honesty, humanity and love which one still demands from individuals is regarded as folly in the relation of nation to nation, have no meaning in diplomacy and politics.  Deception and murder which in individuals lead to prison and gallows, if exercised on a grand scale in the "interests of the state" are crowned with laurel and medals.  The Abrahamitic nation is to know nothing of these national institutions, is to have no national politics and no political economy.  The One Who would be the bearer of their national prosperity need be given no subsidies, has not to reckon on any coalitions or treaties.  At His command rain and sunshine, strength and life, power and victory stand.  In the midst of a world of men who . . . make self-aggrandizement and ruthless extension of their own well-being the deciding goal for all their efforts, the People of Abraham are, in private and public life, to follow the one calling:  to become a blessing.  To dedicate themselves with all devotion to the Divine purpose of bringing happiness to the world and mankind, thereby as models, to re-establish Man to its original pure calling of Adam, then God will grant His blessing to fresh activity of life and to the awakening and education of the nations to similar efforts and make the name of the People of Abraham shine forth far afield.  This second stage was to have become a reality in the Land of Israel, there Israel was to have become in its isolation not only the blessed nation, but in the first place, the spreader of blessing, a source of blessing, a well from which the world would draw its blessing.  Had we lived up to our mission, then all that, which only beckons to us, in the distant future, would have been realized thousands of years ago, and the history of the world would have worn a very different aspect.  

How interesting it is that, even in this third Parashah of the Torah, the concept of Klal Yisrael becoming a light to the nations is apparent.  Although Rav Hirsch points out that this should have been accomplished thousands of years ago, no less important is this concept and commandment today.  In fact, it seems obvious that the world, and the blessings of and to the world, wait on Klal Yisrael fulfilling this mission.

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The translations above are taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

To send your comments, thoughts, or questions, please write to Reb Yosef at RebYosef@mazornet.com
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