Weekly Reading Insights: Lech Lecha 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Lech Lecha

To be read on 10 Cheshvan 5766 (Nov.12)

Genesis 12:1-17:27; Haftorah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16  (because of 41:2-3, which alludes to Avraham's miraculous victory over the Four Kings' armies)

Lech Lecha is the 3rd Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 3rd overall, and 15th out of 54 in overall length.

G-d tells Avram to leave his land. Avram left with his wife Sarai, and nephew Lot. When they reached Shechem, G-d told Avram that He would give the Land (of Israel) to his offspring. Avram built an altar there. Due to famine, they to moved to Egypt. Avram told Sarai to act as his sister, for she was beautiful, and the Egyptians might kill her husband to take her to be Pharaoh's wife. Thinking him to be Sarai's brother, Pharaoh abducted Sarah and was generous to Avram, but was suddenly struck with a plague. He realized that Sarai was actually Avram's wife, and sent them away. Avram and Lot went their separate ways, and Avram settled in Chevron. There was a war, and four kings defeated five other kings. Lot was taken captive but was rescued by Avram. G-d made a covenant with Avram, giving him the Land (of Israel). Sarai's servant Hagar, bore Avram a son, Ishmael. G-d changed Avram's name to Avraham and Sarai's name to Sarah. G-d made a covenant with Avraham, promising him many descendants. He had a Bris Milah at the age of 99. G-d promised that Sarah would bear him a son, to be called Yitzchak.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z::0366/Lech Lecha)

This is the way of the righteous: to chase after the wicked in order to bring them back to the good.... [This is the meaning of the verse] "He and his servants...attacked them". The G-dly soul, together with the righteous, pursue them, rebuke them and castigate them. "Pursuing them as far as Chovah [which literally means 'debt' or 'guilt']." They inform them of their evil, and they chase after them until they reveal their evil and wickedness to them, so that they will be ashamed of their ways...This is what the G-dly soul does.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

* * * * *

From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:0366/Lech Lecha)

The significance of these [six names Havayah] is as follows: We have explained in numerous contexts, including that of the commandment of circumcision in our discussion of parashat Lech Lecha, at length, that even though the five states of chesed spread throughout the body of Zeir Anpin, from chesed to yesod, nonetheless, the radiance of all the five states of chesed is absorbed in yesod; the five states of gevura descend into yesod as well.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

* * * * *

From Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Atar (S:0366/Lech Lecha)

Why did G-d add the world "but"? G-d may have wanted to explain to Abraham that if the gift of a son was something intended only for Abraham, it would suffice to grant his prayer and assist Ishmael to become worthy. However, there was another person to be considered, his wife Sarah. Inasmuch as Sarah was destined to bear a son, he, Abraham, had no right to waive the gift of a son by Sarah in order for Ishmael to grow up worthy of his father.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"When Abram was ninety-nine years old the L-rd appeared to Abram." (17:1)
Our forefather Abraham fulfilled all of the Torah's laws even before it was given. Why, then, did he not circumcise himself until he received an explicit command from G-d? The answer is that before then, circumcision was forbidden, as the Torah prohibits the shedding of blood. The mitzva of mila overrode this prohibition.
(Likutei Sichot) (from L'Chaim #590)

"Your name shall be Abraham." (17:5)
It states in the Talmud: "Anyone who calls Abraham [by his former name] Abram transgresses a positive commandment, as the Torah explicitly states, 'And your name shall be Abraham.'" Yet there is no similar prohibition against referring to our forefather Jacob as Jacob, even though he was later given another name, Israel. One explanation is that the name Abram was given to Abraham by his non-Jewish father, Terach, and it is forbidden to change one's Jewish name and assume one given by a gentile. Jacob, by contrast, was given his name by a Jew, our Patriarch Isaac.
(Toldot Levi Yitzchak)

"My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." (17:13)
Whenever a Jew does a mitzva it connects him to G-d, but the bond it creates is not visible to the eyes of flesh. There is, however, one exception: the mitzva of mila. With this mitzva, the Jew's connection to G-d becomes manifest even to the nations of the world.
(Likutei Sichot) (from L'Chaim #590)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:0366/Lech Lecha)

"After [he Avraham] returned from his victory over Chedorlaomer and his allied kings, the king of Sodom came out to greet him in Equal Valley (now King's Valley.)" Gen. 14:17

It was called "Equal Valley" and "Kings Valley" because the kings of all the nations gathered there and equally accepted Avraham as king over them. They also swore to
him that from that time on they would never serve idols. The Midrash quotes Rabbi Elazar that also in the future, in that same valley, the nations of the world will swear to G-d and to Mashiach that they will give up idolatry forever and serve G-d only.

[Adapted from Discover Moshiach in the Weekly Torah Portion (by Rabbi Berel Bell and the students of Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary of Montreal), as published on www.mashiach.org]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:0366/Lech Lecha)

Why doesn't the portion begin by telling us that Avraham was a tzadik, as it did for Noach? The Maharal teaches that the Torah was careful not to give the impression that G-d's love for Abraham and his descendants was based on some external physical or behavioral factor. If Noach was not a tzadik, G-d might not have chosen him. This condition does not apply to the Jewish people. Even if one day (G-d forbid) we are not meritorious, G-d's love for us will not change then or ever.

Still, while it is not mentioned completely in the five Books of Moses, Jewish tradition teaches us that Avraham was a very great and holy person, and enumerates 10 different trials where G-d tested Avraham's love for Him (see Midrash, Talmud). This week's Torah portion begins with one of the trials when G-d commands, 'Leave your land'. Leave the place where you are comfortable and well known, and go to a new land that G-d will give you, a place where life will certainly be more difficult. But if Avraham was such a great and G-d fearing man, what was the big deal for him to leave? Especially since both where he was living, Charan, and where he was raised, Ur Kasdim, were inundated with idol worship.

The question becomes even more interesting because at the end of last week's portion it explicitly states that Avraham went from Ur Kasdim, and then to Charan, while on his way to Israel! If he was already on his way, why did he need a divine command to tell him to go? The Maharsha (on Talmud Ketubot 111a) states that just like Israel is a special and important place to live, and therefore one should avoid leaving it, you should also avoid leaving Babylonia. Rashi explains that this is because Babel was filled with places that spread Jewish learning. Though Adam's head was created from the earth of Israel, and the rest of his limbs were from other lands, his torso was from Babel!

The Maharsha suggests that a person might even not be able to leave Babel to go to Israel. He brings a proof from Avraham's journeys. Ur Kasdim, which is in Babel, was where King Nimrod cast Avraham into a fiery furnace because of his beliefs in one G-d (this was another one of the ten trials). When Avraham emerged unscathed, everyone who was there began to believe in one G-d. The Maharal says that from this event, we see that in Avraham's time, there was more revealed G-dliness in Babel than in Israel! Since Avraham really was a G-d fearing person, who believed that Babel was full of Godliness, we can understand why Avraham would not leave there until G-d told him to.

From this we learn that a person should not move to a different place until he knows that he can get there what he needs spiritually. (Unless, G-d tells him to go, which means that his new spiritual mission is there). But the converse is also true. As long as he or she lives outside of Israel, one is required to create THERE what makes Israel special. This is done by imbuing his environment with Torah study, mitzvah observance and strong Jewish communities. This is how one transforms his place (wherever!) into Israel.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe adds another point. The name of a portion teaches us its essence. 'Lech lecha' is G-d commanding Avraham to go to Israel to fulfill his spiritual destiny. But as soon as Avraham arrived he was forced to go to Egypt and his wife was taken captive by Pharoah! It would seem that the portion is not about going up in holiness, but rather going down. But we have a Torah principle that 'what happens to the parents is an indication of what will happen to their children'. Avraham's descent to Egypt set the precedent for the Jewish people to descend there years later (ZoharV1/81). So too, Avraham's his departure from Egypt laden with wealth paved the way for his descendants to leave Egypt with riches. Just as Pharoah was unable to hurt Sara, so also the Egyptians were not able to control the Jewish people.Because the purpose of Avraham's descent was for the sake of the subsequent ascent, we must say that the descent was, in fact, the very beginning of the ascent!

All of this can serve to dispel our doubts in our ability to cope with all of the difficulties that surround us. We must remember that all of the darkness is just an external manifestation. Really, on the inside it is not a descent at all-but the preparation for the big ascent that is to follow. Don't worry, push ahead!

Shabbat Shalom - Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)

For all our insights for this parsha:

from last year

from two years ago

from three years ago

from four years ago

Back to Top


Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION