Parshat Lech Lecha 5773: Avraham Avinu’s Search for Hashem, Our Creator and What It Means Today?

by Moshe Burt

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 superior 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.)

The Midrash Says (Sefer Breish’it, Parsha Noach, page 119) 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. The Midrashim cite cases of Avram’s discouragement of customers seeking to buy avodah zoras.

In one such case, 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.

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.

These Midrashim also relate an instance where Avram destroyed all of his Father’s idols leaving only one standing. He explained to Terach that the one idol destroyed the others.

The Midrashim further relate an incident in King Nimrod’s palace where 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.

And so Avraham Avinu emerged as THE Patriarch of B’nai Yisrael — the first Jew!

Shem Mishmuel (in Selections on the weekly parsha as rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, pages 19-22) on Parsha Lech Lecha cites Midrash Tanchuma on Lech Lecha 9 in contrasting the War of the Kings where Lot was captured, with Avraham and Sarah’s leaving Egypt with riches. Rebbetzin Shira Smiles (in Torah Tapestries, Sefer Breish’t pages 32 – 33) makes a similar point citing of the Slonimer Rebbe. The Midrash Tanchuma brings:

Hashem engineered things such that everything that happened to Avraham would happen to his descendents.

Shem Mishmuel explains:

This is the famous concept known as “Ma’aseh Avos siman l’varim” — everything that happened to the Patriarchs was a harbinger of what would happen to their children. This means that all of the events in the lives of the Avos were echoed by the later national events in the life of Klal Yisrael.

The two points are:

  • (1) as Shem Mishmuel goes on, that the four kingdoms which Avraham Avinu fought equate with the four major oppressions of B’nai Yisrael: Babylon — the destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash, Media, which conquered Babylon leading to the Purim Story, Greece which subjugated B’nai Yisrael leading to the Hanukah story and Edom — Rome who destroyed the 2nd Beit HaMikdash and under its inheritors, including the Western world, under which we live today.
  • (2) Also, as per Shem Mishmuel, When Avraham Avinu and Sarah went to Egypt during a drought and both abstained from sexual immorality within a nation known for it’s immorality and depravity, and emerged unscathed and with riches, so too, the B’nai Yisrael, during their entire sojourn — after it’s enslavement and persecution — emerged from Egypt with vast riches.

Shem Mishmuel notes (selections on the weekly parsha as rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, pages 21-22):

The kedusha gained by klal Yisrael in Egypt will stand us… to withstand the tests of exile until the final war against the forces of Edom, in which the the enemy will be vanquished by the Moshiakh ben Yosef — (the Messiah descended from Yosef).

It is significant that a descendent of Yosef will lead to this victory. Yosef was the epitome of the shomer habris, someone who guards himself against sexual immorality. Th descendents of Yosef are presumably imbued with the same character trait. It is only the Moshiakh ber Yosef, a leader characterized by greatness in restraining his desires, who will finally vanquish our enemies.

And so, just as with the Patriarch Avraham Avinu, so too with his descendents in Egypt and Moshe Rabbeinu and soo too, in our generation, B’ezrat Hashem — the Geula Shlaima, the Ultimate Redemption. But there are questions here. Have we seen Moshiakh ben Yosef yet, or has he still to come and yet to pass while fighting and winning the war? The ultimate Moshiakh, Moshiakh ben Dovid (the Messiah descended from Dovid) will come, just as Moshe Rabbeinu was, imbued by Hashem with Torah and with every Jew’s connection to his roots, to his respective lineage, to respective shevet (tribe). As this author understands: Anee Mamin — “with perfect faith,” Moshiakh ben Dovid, when we merit his revelation, will be the seat of earthly Jewish sovereignty, while being the emissary of Hashem in this world — the Rebbe, the Godol, the teacher of All of the Jewish people, and yet a man born of a worldly union. But he will be the kli for imparting the Torah, both written and oral — The Word of Hashem unto the Jews and to the world, emulating Moshe Rabbeinu in being Hashem’s kli, just as moshe was the kli to bring the Jews out of Egypt and teaching them Torah in the Desert. After all, what is the root of the word Moshiakh, but Moshe.

But, how will Moshiakh ben Dovid be revealed? Riding in in majestically on a white horse, or emerging like an oni — a poor person on a donkey? Which way and when do we merit?

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 — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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 V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

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.