Beit Midrash

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



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Cheshvan 10 5779
Our Sedra is filled with numerous promises & pronouncements of Hashem to Avram: "Lech-Lecha, you must go" (to Israel); the Jewish nation will inherit the land (12:7), we will live on eternally (13:16 & 15:5), & Bnei Yisrael would
both descend into slavery in Egypt, but then be gloriously redeemed from there as well (15:13-16).

Yet there is a later message from Hashem to Avram that is somewhat perplexing. "And G-d said: ‘I am el Shadai, walk before Me & be perfect (17:1). The "walk before Me" clause we understand: If Noach walked with G-d, then Avraham was to be more pro-active, a leader of humanity & not a follower. But what does it mean to "be perfect?"

Rashi comes along & offers a tantalizing Medrash: "Walk before Me with the Mitzva of Brit Mila," he says, "and by doing this you will be perfect." In other words, by removing a part of his body – something other cultures, like the Greeks, would clearly consider a defect, a handicap – Avraham & his offspring would actually be adding to their holiness & rising to a level of perfection.

The message being sent here is profound: We live in a world where the goal seems to be perpetually amassing more & more things. A company is judged each year by how much its profits have grown since last year; we know the famous saying, "Whoever dies with the most toys, wins."

But while it’s certainly true that we must continually grow in spirituality & increase our connection to Hashem, there are times, says the Torah, when less is more & losing is winning. And so we actually gain each time we give away some of our hard-earned money in Tzedaka; we advance in wisdom & in the eyes of others when we say less; we increase our credibility, & certainly our humility, when we confess that we simply don’t have all the answers; & we enhance our integrity when we defer & sometimes give in - even when we know we are right! - & let the other person win the argument.

I suggest this is why Hashem chose to employ one of his less-frequently used names, "El Shadai," when making this particular statement to Avram, as opposed to the more common name "YKVK," which He uses in all the other instances. By tradition, the name "El Shadai" means, "the G-d who said ‘Di – enough!" That is, when Hashem created the world, He knew when enough was enough, when to stop. He created the seas, but said to them, "Enough! Stop! Any more & you will overrun the land! And so it was with the forests & the vegetation & the animal kingdom; they could not grow ad infinitum, either. They, too, had to be "cut off" (pun intended), so that the world would be just perfect.

A beautiful message of Mila – particularly apropos now that we have begun reciting "Mashiv HaRuach u’Morid Hagashem – is that when we lower the physicality, the Gashmiut, our Ruach, our spiritual side, returns in greater intensity.
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