This weeks Parasha, Parashat לך לך (Lech Lecha) is the beginning of the life story of Abram, the first patriarch of the Jewish people. The Parasha records the many promises of bounty and blessing that G-d makes to Abram and to his descendants, but the Parasha also harbors echoes of the years of enslavement that we as a people will undergo later in Egypt.
The Parasha begins with Gods commandment and promise to Abram:
לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך
Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your fathers house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.(12:1-12:3)
Abram does as God commands, and takes Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his brothers son and with all their wealth, they leave Haran. (Abram is 75 years old when they leave Haran)
They arrive at Canaan, where God appears to Abram and says,
To your offspring I will give this land(12:7)
There is a severe famine in the land and Abram descends to Egypt to settle there. As Abram is about to enter Egypt, he notes how beautiful his wife Sarai is, and he tells her to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister and not his wife, so that they will allow Abram to live and not kill him in order to take Sarai. However, Pharaohs officials see Sarai, praise her to Pharaoh and take her to Pharaos house. Abram is rewarded heavily with sheep, cattle, donkeys, slaves and maidservants, female donkeys and camels. G-d afflicts Pharaoh with great plagues over the matter of Sarai, causing Pharaoh to summon Abram and demand,
What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she is your wife? Why did you say, she is my sister so that I would take her as my wife? Now, here is your wife; take her and go!(12:18- 12:19)
Abram then goes up from Egypt, he with his wife and all that was his and Lot and many gifts that Pharoh gave him including his daughter, Hagar to be their maidservant. Abram and Lot are unable to dwell together because their possessions are too abundant and there is quarreling between the herdsman of Abram and those of Lot. Abraham proposes that the two separate, saying,
if you go left then I will go right, and if you go right, then I will go left.(13:8-13:9). As a result, Abram dwells in the land of the Canaan while Lot settles as far as Sodom. After Lot parts, G-d speaks to Abram, telling him,
Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward, and westward. For all the land that you see, to you I will give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust on the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted(13:14-13:16).
Then the king of Sodom, along with the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela engage in battle against the king of Elam, king of Goiim, king of Shinar, and king of Ellasar, four kings against five. The side of Sodom and Gomorrah and the five kings are defeated, and they seize all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah. including Lot and his possessions.
A fugitive reports to Abram that his nephew Lot was captured. Abram arms his 318 disciples, and moves to retrieve Lot. The numerical value of Avrams servant Eliezer is equal to 318. Abram and his servants deploy against them at night, and strike them down. Abram brings back all the possessions, his kinsman Lot, and the woman and the people.
Afterwards, the king of Sodom offers Abram,
Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself(14:21).
Abram responds to the king of Sodom,
I lift up my hand to Hashem, God, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, if so much as a thread to shoe strap; or if I shall take from anything of yours! So you shall not say, It is I who made Abram rich. Far from me!(14:22-23).
After these events, G-d reassures Abram that he will bear descendants that will inherit his wealth, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great (15:1) and instructing him, Gaze, now, toward the Heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them! So shall your offspring be! (15:5-15:6). However, G-d also tells him that Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own- and they will serve them, and they will oppress them- four hundred years. But also the nation that they will serve, I shall judge, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth (15:13-15:14).
Now Abrams wife, Sarai had no children but she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. Because she had no children of her own, Sara said to Abram,
See now, Hashem has restrained me from bearing; consort, now, with my maidservant, perhaps I will be built up through her.(16:2) Sarai gives Hagar as a wife to Abram and Hagar soon conceives and begins to despise Sarai. Abram tells Sarai to do as she feels fit with Hagar and when Sarai deals harshly with her, Hagar flees.
However, an Angel of G-d finds Hagar by a spring of water in the desert and asks her,
Where are you coming from and where are you going?
I am running away from Sarai, my mistress.(15: 8)
The angel tells Hagar to return to Sarai and to submit to her mistress and that G-d will greatly increase her offspring and they will not be countable. He tells her that she will have a son, and that she should name him Ishmael for Hashem has heard your prayer (16:11). Abram is 86 when Hagar gives birth to Ishmael.
When Abram is 99 years old, G-d appears to him and says,
I will set My covenant between Me and you, and I will increase you most exceedingly...(17:2). G-d then changes Abrams name to Abraham
for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most exceedingly fruitful, and make nations of you, and kings shall descend from you.(17:5-17:76) The sign of the covenant between G-d and Abraham is that every male shall be circumcised, as it is written,
You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days every male among you shall be circumcised, throughout your generations...Thus My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. An uncircumcised male who will not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin- that soul shall be cut off from its people; he has invalidated My covenant (17:11-17: 14)
G-d also changes Sarais name, from Sarai to to Sarah, telling Abram, As for Sarai your wife- do not call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son through her, I will bless her and she shall give rise to nations, kings of peoples will rise from her (17:15-17:16).
Abraham laughs, thinking
Shall a child be born to a hundred-year old man? And shall Sarah- a ninety-year old woman- give birth?(17:17-17:19)
G-d tells him, Nonetheless, your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will fulfill my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him...He will beget twelve princes and I will make him into a great nation. But I will maintain My covenant through Isaac who Sarah will bear to you by this time next year (17:19-17:21)
The Parasha ends with Abrams circumcision at age 99, On that very day was Abraham circumcised with Ishmael his son, and all the people of his household, born in his household and purchased for money from a stranger, were circumcised with him (17:26-17:27).
(לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך (יב : א
Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your fathers House.(12:1)
The question is, why the repetition? If G-d would have said, from your land or from your birthplace, it would suffice!
The answer is that G-d was alluding to not only a physical journey but to a spiritual journey.
Therefore, מארצך or from your land means from your evil inclination.
וממולדתך or from your birthplace means from the the bad attributes that are innate in man.
ומבית אביך or from your fathers house means from the habits that you learned in your fathers house.
You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. Thus My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant(17:11-17:13)
The covenant that God makes with Abram is the most important covenant- A covenant that lasts forever.
In last weeks Parsha Noah, God makes a covenant with Noah through the rainbow in the sky. The rainbow is an external covenant.
Here with Abram, God makes an eternal and everlasting covenant- the circumcision of the foreskin of all males in the household. The circumcision is a much stronger and binding covenant because any nation can claim the rainbow to be their sign of covenant, but only the Jewish people can truly hold the true everlasting covenant with Hashem.