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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Lech Lecha

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Rabbi Stewart WeissCheshvan 10 5781
12
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This week, the Sedra spotlight shifts from one imposing personality to another, as Noach moves to the sidelines and Avraham steps to center stage. But is there a connection between these two outstanding figures? Interestingly, their paths actually crossed, at least in theory: Avraham was 58 years old when Noach died! So, theoretically, they might have met, or at least they knew of one another.

There is a fascinating common denominator at work here. In our Parsha, Avraham makes a decision to part ways with his nephew Lot. Now, Lot was never a candidate for tzadik-of-the-year, but Avraham was committed to caring for him. So what was it that suddenly made Avraham decide to split with Lot? As part of his strong sense of honesty & integrity, Avraham muzzled his animals as they passed through other's fields. But Lot's shepherds did not. When questioned why not, they had a ready rationalization from Lot: "G-d promised this land to Avraham & his family, and I am his rightful heir. So technically, I'm at least part owner of whatever grows here. Thus I'm really only taking that which is destined to be mine!"

Avraham thought long & hard about this: He could accept lapses of honesty & the occasional misdeed - after all, no one is perfect. But when that shadiness is wrapped in a cloak of fair play, it turns justice on its head & is simply too devious, too dangerous to be around. And so Avraham reluctantly decides he cannot share a community with these people. He parts from Lot, who ultimately will lose all of his ill-gotten wealth.

This devotion to moral correctness may have been a legacy left to Avraham by Noach. For Noach confronted this very same malicious mentality in his own day. The generation of the Flood thought they had it figured out: If they steal just a little bit at a time, in amounts too small to be prosecuted, they could get away scot-free with their theft! But it was precisely this combination of crime and cleverness which Hashem despises, and so He decided that such a generation must be replaced.

The lesson for us is that while you may be able to outwit the law, you can never outsmart the Lawgiver. Pay up now - or youll surely pay up later.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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