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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayera

Parashat Vayera

Where “Lech Lecha” Meets Vayera

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The words "Lech lecha" usually conjure up thoughts of the beginning of last week’s parasha, when Hashem commanded Avram to leave his homeland in search of the Promised Land. Indeed the phrase appears only twice in all of Tanach. The second time is in the introduction to the last major portion of our parasha. There, Hashem commands Avraham (his name being changed already) to go to do Akeidat Yitzchak (Binding of Isaac) on a certain mountain in the Land of Moriah. These two sections share more than the same "hero," embarking on a crucial, uncertain journey. In order to teach us to find the connection between them, the Torah uses the repetition of words and phrases to connect the parshiyot. They both share the root "ra’oh" (see), prefaced by the word "asher," and both stress the root and concept of beracha (blessing).

So what lesson can we learn by examining the two "episodes" together? What does the second word of the phrase, "lecha," mean? The midrash (cited by Rashi, Bereishit 12:1) says that it means, for your benefit. In other words, the journey to the unknown land (which turns out to be C’na’an) will bring great rewards. Indeed, Avram received riches and notoriety in his times, with ramifications for future generations. It was there that his beloved, barren wife finally gave birth to a son, who would carry on Avram’s legacy. He received Malkitzedek, King of Shalem’s blessing and negotiated successfully with the regional powers of Egypt and Pelishtim. Avram took on the allied forces of Mesopotamia and emerged victorious in the first world war. According to the midrash, he even took the princesses of neighboring countries as wives, from whom he fathered entire nations. From a strategic and worldly perspective, the promise of fame, riches and descendants is fully kept.

Let us look at the second command, "Lech lecha." Coming a few decades later, with all of the successes under his belt, the second journey to Akeidat Yitzchak promised to erase almost everything he had gained. The son who was to continue his legacy was to be slaughtered, before begetting the next generation. The most respected man in the world was to turn into the laughing stock of mankind. Who would want to be blessed by association with the man who, after waiting a lifetime for a son, one who was born miraculously, would slaughter him for no apparent reason? Avraham proved that his willingness to fulfill Hashem’s instructions some decades before was not because it was "for your benefit," but that his response (ibid. 22:1) "hinení" (here I am) displayed his unconditional willingness to do the Divine Will.

After proving that his ability to obey was unconnected to his apparent personal welfare, Hashem took the opportunity to bless Avraham again (ibid. 17-18). This time there would be no question if the blessing were the reason for his dedication to Hashem. It was granted after passing the hardest of all tests, without the promise of benefit and satisfaction in hand. It is fitting that this great moment took place at the site where all of mankind would be able to worship, sacrifice to, and draw close to Hashem.
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