Beit Midrash

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“The Canaanites Were Then in the Land”

Hashem’s command to Avraham with which our parashah begins is listed as one of the ten tests that Avraham was asked to pass (Avot 5:3), and some say that it even included two tests (Avot D’Rabbi Natan 33). We will try to explain the difficulty of the task, which made it so highly regarded. The first sub-section of the parashah ends as follows: “Avram passed through the Land to the place of Shechem, to Elon Moreh, and the Canaanites were then in the Land” (Bereishit 12:6). Why is it significant that the Canaanites were in the Land at this time, and why does the Torah stress the word “then”?

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Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Cheshvan 4 5778
Hashem’s command to Avraham with which our parashah begins is listed as one of the ten tests that Avraham was asked to pass (Avot 5:3), and some say that it even included two tests (Avot D’Rabbi Natan 33). We will try to explain the difficulty of the task, which made it so highly regarded.
The first sub-section of the parashah ends as follows: "Avram passed through the Land to the place of Shechem, to Elon Moreh, and the Canaanites were then in the Land" (Bereishit 12:6). Why is it significant that the Canaanites were in the Land at this time, and why does the Torah stress the word "then"?
Rashi was undoubtedly bothered by these questions when he explained that the Canaanites had been capturing the Land from the descendants of Shem, to whom the Land was originally slated. When Hashem gave the Land to Avraham, a descendant of Shem, He was in that way returning it to its proper owners. This is difficult, though, as Rashi himself indicates elsewhere that both the Land of Israel and Egypt were slated for the sons of Cham (Canaan and Mitzrayim). Nimrod, another descendant of Cham, left Egypt and conquered the land from there until Assyria, and the bridge between these two places is Eretz Yisrael.
Let us remember that Nimrod was the major enemy of Avraham, highlighted of course by Nimrod’s throwing Avraham into the furnace. He controlled all of the Middle East, with the Canaanites, his cousins, being those who lived in Eretz Yisrael, then called the Land of Canaan. Of all places, Hashem chose to send Avraham there, and there he called out in the name of Hashem. He offered sacrifices, set up centers of monotheism in Beit El and in Elon Moreh, and preached a life based on the sanctity of the family, justice, and charity.
Let us pray that we will merit establishing in Eretz Yisrael a society based on a life of purity and sanctity, based on principles of kindness and justice. This is the legacy we inherited from Avraham. May we succeed in being a light unto the nations and that they will recognize this.
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