Beit Midrash

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

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

Parashat Lech Lecha

The Actions of the Fathers as a Sign for the Children


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

8 Cheshvan 5765
Our parasha begins the section where the Torah tells of the actions of our nation’s patriarchs. As we begin again to investigate and learn from these ancient role-models, let us review the rule upon which our study must be based. "Hashem gave Avraham a sign, that everything that happened to him, happened to his offspring" (Midrash Tanchuma, Lech Lecha 9). The Ramban (Bereishit 12:6) expounds at length on this concept. He says that the Torah spoke in great detail about the patriarchs’ travels and actions, because they foretell important, future events. Furthermore, he posits, their actions concretized that which Hashem had decreed on the future of Bnei Yisrael, in a way that all that had been intended would occur under all circumstances.

The Sefat Emet (Sukkot 5643) teaches us another element of the link between the actions of forefathers and those of descendants that is very worthwhile to consider. He writes that the command to Avram to travel away from his dwelling place is the model for similar phenomena later in history. Bnei Yisrael went out into a barren wilderness after leaving Egypt, demonstrating a similar strength. Furthermore, all subsequent generations of our nation leave their permanent homes to live in the temporary dwelling of a sukka. This is done, he says, after the "re-birth" and purifying experience of Yom Kippur, which gives all Jews the desire to be drawn after Hashem.

This explanation goes beyond the Ramban’s applications of fathers being signs for children in the following way. The Sefat Emet posits that later generations can relive that which the forefathers were commanded and fulfilled in the past by following the mitzvot of the present. Just as Avram gave up his sense of stability by traveling to a new place, so a Jew does when he leaves the house for the sukka. The Sefat Emet brings the pasuk in Yirmiya that Hashem remembers the "chesed of your youth" to recall how Bnei Yisrael had entered a dangerous wilderness at the time of Moshe. "Chesed" likely hints at Avraham, the pillar of chesed. "Youth" may also refer to him, as he was the first stage in the development of our nation.

The midrash (Tanchuma, Lech Lecha 1:1) brings the following discussion on the pasuk that mandated Avram’s sojourn. A person cannot accept the Heavenly Kingdom while walking but must say Kriat Shma while stationary. Upon reaching "Baruch shem ..." he can start "V’ahavta ..." while walking. The Sefat Emet says that Kriat Shma and "Baruch shem" correspond to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur; "V’ahavta" refers to the love we demonstrate on Sukkot. On Sukkot one can go out to the world, like Avram, and bring others to appreciate the Divine Name. In the merit of showing the whole world the beauty of the service of Hashem, one merits, like Avram, "... the Land that I will show you." These days, when we are struggling to hold on to that Land, let us remember the Sefat Emet’s words.

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