About a Refugee, Merits, Treatment of Women, and Covenants
After Avraham’s nephew Lot was taken captive by the four Mesopotamian kings, the Torah relates: “The refugee (palit) came and told Avram the Hebrew, who was dwelling in the plot of Mamreh the Emorite, the brother of Eshkol and Aner, and they were members of a covenant with Avram” (Bereishit 14:13). Among the many things to ask about this pasuk: Who was the palit and from what did he escape? What is the connection between the palit’s arrival and the friends in whose company Avraham was dwelling?
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”?
Our parasha opens with a description of Avraham’s “aliya” – “… and Avram was 75 years-old when he left Charan” (Bereishit 12:4). Despite this pasuk, Chazal had no problem in positing that the Brit Bein Habetarim, which appears in the Torah three perakim later, took place when Avraham was 70 years-old (i.e., five years earlier). One cannot even explain that that brit took place when Avraham was in Charan or Ur Kasdim because the p’sukim hint three times that it was done in the Land that would be given to Avraham and his descendants as an inheritance (see Bereishit 15: 7,16,18).
In the eyes of Chazal, Avram’s activities in this battle receive mixed reviews; Avram’s concern for his relatively righteous and innocent relative was legitimate and even laudable; Before the student soldiers were recruited, they are called chanichav (his disciples). During the battle they are called “avadav” (his slaves).