Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Lech Lecha
To dedicate this lesson

Lech Lecha


Rabbi Berel Wein

Our father Avraham and our mother Sarah wandered for a great deal of their lives. Their career begins with the journey from Mesopotamia to the Land of Israel as described in this week’s parsha. From the construction of the dates regarding the age of Avraham as they appear in the Torah the commentators reckon that Avraham made a number of journeys to the Land of Israel before permanently settling there. And while living in the Land of Israel Avraham and Sarah continue to wander across the face of that land. A famine forces them to travel to Egypt and eventually they return gain to the Land of Israel. Travel and wandering take a toll on people. The feeling of impermanence and of insecurity is always a byproduct of too much travel and of forced wanderings and migrations. Avraham and Sarah exploit their travels to spread the message of monotheism in a pagan world. They experience war, tyranny, famine, disappointments, family disruption and continuing frustrations. God’s promises of greatness and eternity do not carry a guarantee of an easy and comfortable life. In spite of all of their successes and the vast numbers of followers that they have created they lead an essentially lonely existence. And they are uncertain of their future and are apparently unable to have progeny that will carry on their work in the next generations that will come after them. All in all it seems that they are forced to pay a high price personally for being the father and mother of nations and the conscience of humanity.

The basic truth of the entire narrative regarding our founders of Judaism is that their lives serve as a paradigm and model for the Jewish story generally throughout the ages. We are a nation of wanderers. We have traveled the world, willingly and otherwise, spreading the basic ideas of monotheism, goodness and compassion towards others and hope for a better future for all of humankind. Naturally the disappointments, defeats and frustrations that Avraham and Sarah are repeated and repeated again in all of Jewish history as well. And the wandering gene that is within all Jews remains part of us today. And people who are by nature wanderers find it difficult to feel satisfied with what they have or where they are. Avraham himself will complain to God "What have you given me?" It is only at the end of his life that Avraham achieves the serenity and permanence that he has always sought. The achievements of Jewry over the ages against formidable odds are extraordinary. But they are all at great cost. One should realize that there is no easy way to be a true descendant of Avraham and Sarah. It is not merely a matter of biology and genetics that makes one a descendant of our ancestors. It is matter of commitment, tenacity and toughness in the face of loneliness and opposition. I pray that our wanderings are approaching their final station and that again as our father Avraham we will also reach the shores of serenity and permanence in our personal and national life.
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