“If Not Now, when?”

Moshe Kempinski

Life Lessons From the Torah Portion

In the Torah portion of Lech Lecha we read the following;

And Hashem said to Avram,( Abram) “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)

According to Rashi this was the third of the ten tests that Avraham ( Abraham) was to endure and according to the Rambam it was the first.

But the Ohr Hachaim asks the question” Considering the promise that was given by G-d” 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” , was Avraham’s exile from his family and homeland really a test?

Yet we then see that the entry into the land was just the beginning. Avraham had to learn to live a life that was not lined with immediate fulfillment of those promises. He had to learn to live a life of faith based on the unknown.

“Famine” forces him to leave the promised land.”Danger” forces him to risk his immediate family. “War” puts his very life in danger .Even the promise of a nation coming from his son Yitzchak is left in doubt when Hashem asks Avraham “”Please take your son, your only one, whom you love, yea, Isaac, and go away to the land of Moriah and bring him up there for an elevated offering on one of the mountains, of which I will tell you.” ( ibid 22:2)

The commandment to “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.( ibid 12:1) was a dramatic test as it pushed Avraham into a walk of faith wherein all the promises remained in potential fulfilment.

That would be the defining character of the Avrahamic walk ;

“Now when Avram was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to Avram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be wholehearted” ( ibid 17:1).That is to say “walk forward into the unknown with the faith that i am behind you.

Yet all of mankind is beset with a tendency that becomes even more pronounced when we are moving ahead on a belief and a promise. Procrastination becomes the enemy of vision. Yet it is so prevalent and is so well accepted. In the words of Mark Twain “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well”.

Yet putting things off inevitably robs us of opportunity and chips away at the resolve to move forward. Avraham develops a trait that avoids that pitfall.

When Avraham is recuperating from the rite of the circumcision we read the following;

“And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground. And he said, “My lords, if only I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass on from beside your servant. …6And Avraham hastened to the tent to Sarah, and he said, “Hasten three seah of meal [and] fine flour; knead and make cakes.” 7And to the cattle did Avraham run, and he took a calf, tender and good, and he gave it to the youth, and he hastened to prepare it.( Genesis 18:2-7)

This was to be a critical quality of Avraham. When faced with a task , regardless of how uncomfortable , painful or ominous , Avraham hurries to seize the opportunity.

When he is told that his nephew Lot had been captured in a war we read; “And Avram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, and he armed his trained men, those born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and he pursued [them] until Dan.”( ibid 14:14) without hesitation

When Hashem asks Avraham to bring his son as an elevated offering we read;

“Early the next morning Avraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.( ibid 22:3 )

In spite of the pain and sorrow Avraham did not hesitate and seized every opportunity to do what needed to be done.

In a world where sitting on the fence and declaring “I’m good” is the accepted norm, Avraham teach us all to step in and seize the moment. Otherwise the moment may disappear and the resolve can melt away.

Hillel the elder says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Leave a Comment