Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Lech lecha

“And he believed in the Lord ; and He counted it to him for righteousness” Genesis 15:6

    Almost out of the blue, at the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha, God appears to Abraham, commands him to travel to the “promised land”, blesses him and promises him that he will become a great nation. However, the Torah never tells us why Abraham was chosen for this great task.

    Although one would expect the Torah itself to provide the answer to such a fundamental question, the Book of Bereshit seems to skirt the issue entirely. In contrast to Parashat Noach, which informs us right at the outset of the reason for Noah’s distinction — “for he was a righteous man” — Parashat Lech Lecha never reveals the reason why God singled out Abraham.

    What initially do we learn about Abraham? He leaves his father’s house without so much as a by-your-leave; he lies to Pharaoh about his wife Sara, saying she is his sister, and puts her life in danger; he has a child by his wife’s servant Hagar, and then harshly banishes her to struggle in the desert soon after giving birth. Hardly moral choices that single him out to be the “father of many nations”.

    What else do we learn about the personality of Abraham? He is a successful negotiator; he listens to the voice of his wife, he welcomes in guests, and we are told that he will teach his children “the way of righteousness and justice”. If we return to the example of Noah as a hint, we can look closely at our text and make an educated guess that Abraham is chosen for some as yet unrevealed characteristic — his righteousness – an assumption compounded by the number of times the word is used in connection to Abraham (see Genesis 15:6, 18:19; and seven more times in the exchange between Abraham and God over whether to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, in next week’s parashah).

    What does it mean to be righteous? A righteous person is one who displays certain characteristics: integrity, equity, justice, uprightness. Someone who is just, true and sincere. Perhaps we could look at these seemingly negative stories about Abraham, cited above, through a different lens: Abraham is a human being who strives for righteousness, and that is why he is chosen.

    Judaism has high expectations of humanity. Many of us strive to be moral, ethical people, but sometimes we make mistakes. We should not despair when we inevitably make them. Rather we should find the strength to pick up and continue on our quest for righteousness.

    RELATED STORIES

  • Sidrah

    Toldot

    Rabbi Joseph Dweck

    Thursday, December 1, 2016

    Toldot
  • Sidrah

    Chayei Sarah

    Rabbi Debbie Young Somers

    Thursday, November 24, 2016

    Chayei Sarah
  • Sidrah

    Vayera

    Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Vayera
Sidrah

Lech Lecha

Rabbi Daniella Kolodny

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lech Lecha
Sidrah

Chol Hamo'ed

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Friday, October 21, 2016

Chol Hamo'ed
Sidrah

Nitzavim

Rabbi Larry Tabick

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nitzavim
Sidrah

Noach

Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Noach
Sidrah

Ha'azinu

Rabbi Daniel Roselaar

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ha'azinu
Sidrah

Ki Tavo

Maureen Kendler

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ki Tavo
Sidrah

Bereshit

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bereshit
Sidrah

Vayelech

Dr Lynndy Levin

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Vayelech
Sidrah

Ki Tetzei

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ki Tetzei