Lech Lecha(Genesis 12-17)
Lech Lecha 5773
GOOD MORNING! What is the essence of friendship? Virtually all of us have people we enjoy being with and doing things with, but what is the difference between an acquaintance and a friend?
There's a Midrash which tells of a businessman in ancient times from the Land of Israel who was accused of being a spy. After being condemned to death, the man requests 30 days to return home to put his affairs in order and to say good-bye to his family. The judge laughs at the ridiculous request; the man responds that he has a friend who will stay in jail in his place until he comes back -- and if he doesn't come back, his friend will die in his place.
This the judge had to see. So, they send for the friend. Sure enough, he agrees to stand bond in place of his friend all the way up to the noose.
The businessman returns home, puts his affairs in order, says good-bye to his family and returns with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, there is a storm at sea and he is delayed. He arrives shortly before the time he is to be executed. He runs to the town square where his friend is already at the gallows; he screams, "No, it is I who is to be executed!" And his friend yells back, "No, you're too late!" They create such a commotion and confusion that the king calls for them to be brought before him.
Each presents his case and then they begin to argue with each other about who is to be executed. Finally, the king stops them and says, "I will pardon you both on one condition -- that you make me a third friend!"
What is the essence of friendship? Loyalty. A true friend is always there for you. The Hebrew word for friend is "chaver" -- from the word "chibbur" which means attached, joined. A true friend is someone whose love is unconditional, who will be there for you always. The very foundation of friendship is loyalty.
A true friend does not condone wrong behavior and immoral choices. However, he is there to support, to reprove, to help his friend get his life back on track. He cares enough about you to tell you when you are wrong, but he does it with love and in a way that you can hear. A true friend will help you grow as a human being and to reach your goals.
One would not choose a surgeon just because he seems to be a nice guy. Choosing a friend is serious business; friends influence your life -- and come with responsibilities! Know what traits you want in a friend before seeking friendship. Be careful of committing to a friendship haphazardly. Make sure you choose the right friends!
How does one make a true friend? First, be careful who you choose to be your friend. If friendship implies commitment and loyalty, you should select your friends carefully. A friend can help you elevate yourself in life or he can bring you down. Know the character and history of someone before making him a friend.
Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers, (a compendium of Jewish wisdom found in the back of most Jewish prayer books -- or available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242) gives the following advice: "K'nei l'cha chaver" which translates as "Buy for yourself a friend." Obviously, one cannot buy friendship -- although I did have a college roommate who always told me "Friends stay friends longer when they give gifts" (problem was, he always wanted to be on the receiving end...).
However, friendship does take investment. The best vitamin for acquiring a friend is B1. If one wants a person to be his friend, then he has to give the commitment and loyalty in order to get it in return. (It is much like marriage.) One must watch out for his friend's best interest and to be there for him. By the way, if you want to see who loves you and is concerned about you -- look at who cares about your children. If your friend cares about your children, he really cares about you!
Torah Portion of the Week
The Almighty commands Avram (later renamed Avraham) to leave Haran and go to the "place that I will show you" (which turned out to be the land of Canaan -- later renamed the Land of Israel). The Almighty then gives Avram an eternal message to the Jewish people and to the nations of the world, "I will bless those who bless you and he who curses you I will curse." Finding a famine, Avram travels to Egypt (once renamed to be part of the United Arab Republic) asking Sarai (later renamed Sarah), to say she is his sister so they won't kill him to marry her (the Egyptians were particular not to commit adultery ... so they would kill the husband instead).
Pharaoh evicts Avram from Egypt after attempting to take Sarai for a wife. They settle in Hebron (also known as Kiryat Arba) and his nephew Lot settles in Sodom. Avram rescues Lot -- who was taken captive -- in the Battle of the Four Kings against the Five Kings.
Entering into a covenant with the Almighty (all covenants with the Almighty are eternal, never to be abrogated or replaced by new covenants), Avram is told that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years and that his descendants (via Isaac, "... through Isaac will offspring be considered yours." Gen. 21:8) will be given the land "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Sarai, childless, gives her handmaid Hagar to Avram for a wife so that he will have children. Ishmael (the alter zedeh -- the grandfather -- of our Arab cousins) is born. The covenant of brit mila, religious circumcision, is made (read 17:3-8), God changes their names to Avraham and Sarah and tells them that Sarah will give birth to Yitzhak (Isaac). Avraham circumcises all the males of his household.
* * *
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And I (God) will bless those who bless you, and him that curses you I will curse; and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3).
When the Torah states that God will bless "those who bless you" it refers not only to someone who blesses Avraham, but also to someone who blesses a descendant of Avraham (Talmud Bavli, Chulin 49a).
Rabbi Yechezkail Levenstein cited this verse in a letter he wrote to show that blessing one's friend is a very worthwhile action. When you bless another person, you merely offer a few words, in return for which the Almighty gives you his bountiful blessings.
Remember -- when you greet someone with a cheery "Good morning" or "Good night," you are blessing him and you will be blessed. Don't merely mumble the words. Be sincere and keep in mind that in essence you are saying, "I pray that you should have a good morning."
CANDLE LIGHTING - October 26
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A friend is someone who knows everything about you
-- and likes you anyway
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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