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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Lech Lecha

Two Trips, Two Connections

Rabbi Yossef Carmel13 Cheshvan 5767
3143
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The Torah (Bereishit 12:5) tells us that Avram (= Avraham) was 75 years old when he left Charan on the way to Eretz Yisrael. Yet, the reference to Bnei Yisrael leaving Egypt after 430 years implies that the covenant of brit bein habetarim, whose language indicates that its setting was Eretz Yisrael, was when he was only 70 (see Shemot 12:41 with the Ramban). Tosafot posits that Avram made two trips to Eretz Yisrael. During the first, Lot accompanied him, he fought the four kings, and he took part in brit bein habetarim. Subsequently, he left for Charan and returned at age 75. Perhaps the defining moment of the second stint was the akediat Yitzchak on Mt. Moriah, where the Beit Hamikdash would stand a millennium later. What can we learn from the fact that Avram had to travel to Eretz Yisrael twice?

The gemara (Shabbat 55a) discusses the fact that the z’chut (merit of the) avot wore off (there is a dispute as to when). Tosafot points out that even so, the brit (covenant of the) avot does not run out, and it is that which we rely upon. What is the difference between z’chut avot and brit avot?

A brit does not depend on merit but stems from an innate connection begun by those who form the covenant, which continues on almost regardless of the future generations’ characteristics. Based on such a covenant, the prophet can proclaim: "Your nation are all righteous, forever will they inherit the land" (Yeshaya 60:21). This connectedness was at the heart of the brit bein habetrim which Hashem made with Avram specifically in Chevron, during his first stay in the Land. The move to Eretz Yisrael at that time had been based on a deep inner connection between Avram and the Land, rather than of a result of a Divine decree that he should move there.

Z’chut develops as a result of an accumulation of proper utilization of free will causing a surplus of spiritual credit, if you will. However, Bnei Yisrael can lose credit and can actually go into deficit. The symbol of the result of choices is Yerushalayim, the object of the many references to "the place that Hashem shall choose." Avraham’s life in Eretz Yisrael revolved around the locations and models of Yerushalayim and Chevron. These represent, respectively, the special innate connection that reached a pinnacle at brit bein habetarim and the successful passing of many tests thrown Avraham’s way, culminating in akeidat Yitzchak. King David also possessed these two elements, starting as king in Chevron and moving to Yerushalayim.

Avraham paved the way for all future generations of offspring. There are those who came to Eretz Yisrael because of the innate, almost subconscious Jewish connection to the Land. Others came out of a realization that Hashem wants us to do so and a choice to follow Hashem’s wishes. Let us hope that more will take either approach and seize the opportunity to actualize the z’chut avot and brit avot.

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