Parshat Lech Lecha 5771: Avraham Avinu, Jonathan Pollard and L’Shem Shemayim

by Moshe Burt

This author was on a roll in a friend’s Succah the night of the Yom Tov. During the seven days of Succot, we speak each day about one of the Seven Holy Men (Ushpizin) commemorated — Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aaron, Yosef and King David. In honor of Parshat Lech Lecha, an effort to recreate the off-the-cuff vort said on Avraham Avinu with a few embellishments, is made.

On the first night of Succot we commemorate, to parody Rowan and Martin’s ‘Laugh-In’ in the late 60s and early 70s, “The Man without whom the Jews wouldn’t be the Jews without the Jew — Avraham Avinu.”

Midrashim tell how Avraham Avinu deduced at an early age that Hashem was the Creater and Ruler of the world. He tried worshipping the earth, the rain, the sun, the moon, etc. but deduced that not one of these forces regulated the world and that:

There must be a higher intelligence directing them [the various forces].

“I have not seen Him,” said Avram, “but I can understand that only a mighty and merciful G-d could have created the… world around me, and only his superio intelligence is able to keep it going. To Him will I bow.” (The Midrash Says, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, Sefer Breish’it, Parsha Noach, page 118.)

And Midrashim tell how young Avram, while left in charge of the idol business in his Father Terach’s absence, did everything possible to discourage customers from purchasing avodah zora. In one such incident of discouragement where a customer requested a large idol as befitting his important status, Avram asked the customer:

“How old are you?” “I am fifty years old.” “And are you no ashamed to worship… [an idol] that is only one day old?” Avram asked. “My father just made this one yesterday.” Confused, the man put his money in his pocket and left. (The Midrash Says, Sefer Breish’it, Parsha Noach, page 119.)

Another customer told Avram that thieves broke into her home and stole her gods. Avram inquired of her:

“If your gods were unable to protect themselves from robbers, how do you expect them to protect you?” “You are right,” the woman admitted. “But whom shall we serve?” “The Creater of heaven and ewarth who made me and you,” Avram answered. (The Midrash Says, Sefer Breish’it, Parsha Noach, page 119.)

In another instance, Avram destroyed all of his Father’s idols leaving only one standing. He explained to Terach that the one idol destroyed the others.

In still another instance, this in King Nimrod’s palace, Avram mockingly offered Nimrod’s idols bread and wine to eat and drink. When none of the idols moved or answered, Avram threw them all into a heap and burned them all before fleeing the palace. The king’s soldiers seized Avram and threw him into the dungeon where he ramained for 10 years. Avram remained faithful to Hashem throughout his imprisonment.

After 10 years, Avram was again brought before Nimrod for judgement. After an exchange regarding worship of the various earthly forces, Nimrod angrily challenged Avram as to whether Hashem was stronger than his god — fire. Nimrod had Avram thrown into a fiery furnace. But, the Moloch Gavriel saved Avram, who stood unharmed amidst the flames and emerged from the furnace unscathed.

Avram’s brother Haran sat on the proverbial “fence”, awaiting resolution of Avram’s fate. Haran thought:

“If Avram is saved, I will say that I belong to Avram’s camp; if he dies, I shall say that I am on Nimrod’s side.” (The Midrash Says, Sefer Breish’it, Parsha Noach, page 119.

When Avram emerged unscathed, Haran, who was a great magician, assumed that he would be saved in the same manner. But the miracle didn’t reoccur for Haran as his faith in Hashem was not real and complete, but only based on Avram’s life being spared. It was evident that magic had not saved Avram and that “Kiddush Hashem” (sanctification of Hashem’s name) had occured.

Perhaps Avraham Avinu heard a cerebral Divine message.

We learn that Avraham Avinu went on to have great influence on the people of the world and to amass great wealth. But he could have spared himself the years of suffering in prison, as well as the incident in the fiery furnace, had he simply followed his father’s directions, watched over the business, been quiet about A Divine Creator and not shown impudence to king Nimrod. No earthly superior stood forcing or ordering Avraham Avinu to destroy avodah zora and to promote HaKadosh Borchu. But, as that parody on Laugh-In went, “The Man without whom the Jews wouldn’t be the Jews without the Jew — Avraham Avinu.”

Avraham Avinu’s recognition, acknowledgement of, and Ahavat (love of) Hashem was self-directed and from within himself.

And so too, in our times, we bear witness to a great “Kiddush Hashem” in the personage of Jonathan Pollard — Yehonaton ben Malka.

As with Avraham Avinu, Jonathan Pollard was not instructed or ordered by superiors or by a handler to provide Israel with the dire information she needed. Pollard could have been a free man today and over these past 25 years, successful in his employment within the American intelligence community, had he just looked the other way as America betrayed Israel via the abrogation of the intelligence-sharing treaty between the two nations. But what would be the fate of Israel, of the Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the world had the knowledge about Iraqi weaponry and capacity for chemical, nerve warfare not been revealed to Israel? That modern Israeli homes and apartments are required by law to have been built with sealed rooms is directly attributable to the information provided Israeli intelligence by Jonathan Pollard. Yehonaton ben Malka just couldn’t turn way and couldn’t ignore what he saw as the potential for Jewish blood-letting. He couldn’t ignore the fate of his people in order to maintain his own well-being.

As with Avraham Avinu, perhaps Yehonaton ben Malka heard a cerebral Divine message and felt compelled, from within himself, to act Al Kiddush Hashem even putting his life on the line on behalf of his people Am Yisrael.

Those who have worked and prayed on behalf of Jonathan Pollard through the years have yet another opportunity to work toward achieving clemency and freedom from imprisonment for Jonathan and his speedy return to Eretz Yisrael, to his people.

Those of us who hold United States citizenship and who seek Jonathan Pollard’s freedom should get behind efforts to reach their legislators
in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to encourage them to join a drive begun by 4 U.S. Congressman to sign a letter to the President. Hopefully,
this letter, containing many signatures, will be sent to President Obama in mid-October.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to stand up as one to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem, Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.