Life Lessons from the Torah Reading
We are all familiar with the phenomenon. We yearn for a certain book or an item. We anticipate finding it and think of what wondrous things it may reveal. We finally find it and place it on our shelf or in a drawer and we are content. Many times it stops there. We are content that we gave come into possession of what may turn out to be a key to wondrous ideas. We placed it in a place of safety.
And then ….nothing!
Hashem promised much to Avraham (Abraham)
And Hashem said to Avram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [you shall] be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.” ( Genesis 12:1-3)
Further in the text we read the following very dramatic statement;
“And he [Avraham] believed in Hashem; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” ( Genesis15:6)
Is the belief in G-d so sufficient and so worthy that it is equated with righteousness? Is that all that one must do, “believe”?
What exactly did Avraham do? What were the events that brought about this very short, but dramatic, declaration? The impossible test with Isaac at Mount Moriah had not yet occurred. He had not yet been told to send off his son Yishmael, born to Hagar, into the wilderness. Avraham had not even been commanded to enact the ritual of circumcision at the age of ninety-nine. Yet, we are told that Avraham he’emeen (believed) in Hashem.
To truly understand one needs to explore what had occurred just before this dramatic declaration.
When Avraham is looking for comfort and encouragement he experiences the following with Hashem
And He took him outside, ( VaYotzeh Oto HaChutza)and He said, “Please look heavenward and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him thus shall be your children (Ibid 15:5)
The key root word to consider is the word “Go Out- LaTzeit” ( or its derivatives). It denotes a “going out”, or a “breaking through”. Avraham and his family could not taste of the sweetness of the land unless they were able to break away from the patterns, thinking and customs of his father’s house.
Yet the deeper level is yet to be revealed;
G-d tells Avraham to go out and count the stars “And He took him outside, and He said, “Please look heavenward and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And then He said to him, “So will be your seed.”(Genesis 15:5).
In the midst of that commandment Hashem says “if you are able to count them”, declaring essentially to Avraham that it is an impossible task.
Then the verse says “.” And then He said to him”(ibid)”.
G-d was in the midst of talking to Avraham. Why do we need to know that then” G-d said”. Clearly there was a pause between “If you are able to count them “ and the words “and then He said”
What did Avraham do during that pause? Clearly he went out and started counting the stars just as G-d had asked him to do.
At that point G-d declares “So will be your seed.”. He is telling him that it is that characteristic that will exemplify his children. They will endeavor to do even the impossible because that is what their beloved G-d asked them to do, They will endeavor to be faithful at all costs.
The root source of the Hebrew word he’emeen (believed) comes from Neeman ( Faithfulness) . It was Avraham’s faithfulness that was counted as righteousness and not the fact that deep in his heart he believed in Hashem.
Avraham, at the age of seventy-five, was told to go forth into a land that he did not know. More importantly, he was told to go forth “unto the land that I will show thee.” He did not even know where in fact he was to go. That event would transform and fashion the very nature of his soul and the souls of all his descendants. The strength of the people who would descend from Avraham would focus in their willingness to go forth into the unknown future simply because that was their Divine destiny. It was that walking forward under Divine direction that would repeatedly change their history and advance the history of the world.
That is a deep lesson for each of us as an individuals as well. We each have hopes and aspirations. We each carry within us a deep spiritual compass. Yet we are sometimes frightened or feel unworthy to step forward and faithfully follow that inner spiritual voice. We feel love for our spouses and our children but sometimes neglect to act that affection openly and directly. We have a clear sense of what is right in the world but sometimes feel too cowered to faithfully stand and speak or act of that inner truth.
The world as well is in need of that lesson. The world is going through complete upheaval. The United States with their election, the continent of Europe with the clash of values. The continent of Africa with its dramatic search for identity and purpose. The Far East with its yearning for individuation and personal worth. Hashem is stirring the world for one purpose, He seems to want everyone to “get off the fence”. To take a stand. To be faithful to that inner voice ,they already know.
The choice that lays before us is whether we enter the protective but exclusive shell of Noah’s Ark or go forth into the unknown future with the faith and faithfulness of Avraham.
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved