Lech Lecha(Genesis 12-17)
Lech Lecha 5764
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GOOD MORNING! In this week's Torah portion, Avraham (Abraham) makes his way to the land of Israel and begins the journey of the Jewish people through history. Along that path we have seen nations rise and fall and have survived them, even through massive persecution. There were 2 million Jews during the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. Demographers state that though there are approximately 14 million Jews identified worldwide, there are possibly 400 million halachic Jews (Jews whose mother's were Jewish or converted according to Jewish law). Many Jews have fallen by the wayside of history. This week I share with you a story of one Jew who made his way back to identifying with the Almighty, the Jewish people and the Torah ... albeit in a rather unusual way.
"Lance" grew up in Connecticut in a family so assimilated that they sent him to a Catholic school for the "best education." (Education, by the way, should mean direction on how to live life with values and meaning within one's own heritage, and not just SAT scores.) Though he knew he was Jewish, it made little difference until one day when he was asked in his English class to write an essay about a Saint.
When the teacher, a priest, received an essay about Rabbi Akiva, he asked, "Why did you choose to write about a great rabbi?" and Lance replied simply, "Because I am Jewish."
The priest was surprised that he had a Jewish pupil and asked Lance if he had ever studied the Five Books of Moses with Rashi, the great commentator, or if he had ever learned the Mishna, part of the Talmud. When Lance told him "No," the priest offered to teach him. For an hour a day after school, they learned together.
One day it occurred to Lance that Judaic studies were not the usual curriculum for the priesthood, so he asked his mentor, "How did you become so knowledgeable in Torah?"
The priest replied, "Before I entered the seminary, I traveled to Israel. While visiting the Western Wall a man asked me if I was Jewish. Curious as to why he asked, I answered 'Yes.' The man then asked me if I was interested in learning about my heritage. I figured it would be interesting, so I said, 'Sure.' He took me to a yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and I was so impressed that I stayed for close to a year, never revealing that I wasn't Jewish. I considered converting, but decided that it would be too difficult and too much of a shock to my family, so here I am."
Lance continued to grow in his Jewish studies and in his love for Judaism. After several months, he decided to pursue his Judaism full-time and asked the priest for a suggestion of a place to study. So, the priest sent Lance to his alma mater - Aish HaTorah.
It has been said that if truth is stranger than fiction, it is because it has a better author. There have been many students at Aish and other similar programs of Jewish studies who have been referred by gurus, Buddhist priests and others. But, why wait for a referral? If you want to learn more about your heritage than what you receive each week from me, then go to http://www.aish.com, look on the right hand side for Aish Branches and click on one near you! Or go to: http://www.partnersintorah.com and they can arrange for a telephone study partner for you.
Torah Portion of the Week
The Almighty commands Avram (later renamed Avraham) to leave Haran and go to 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).
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." (I do not think that this part of the story made it into the Koran...)
Sarai, childless, gives her handmaid Hagar to Avram for a wife so that he will have children. Ishmael (the alter zedeh 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
Although greatly outnumbered, Avram (before he was renamed Avraham) rescued his captive nephew Lot and all the other people who had been captured with him. When Avraham returned victorious, the Torah states:
"Malkitzedek King of Sholaim brought out bread and wine, and he was a priest of God, the most high. And he (Malkitzedek) blessed him (Avram) and said, 'Blessed be Avram to God the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth. And blessed be God the Most High Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.' " (Genesis 14:18-20)
The Talmud (Nedarim 32b) states that Malkitzedek erred by expressing gratitude first to Avraham and then to God. We must be grateful to anyone who does us a favor, but at the same time, we must realize that God is the ultimate source of all favors.
PEN PALS FOR PRISONERS
The Aleph Institute (http://www.aleph-institute.org) has a waiting list of 175 Jewish prisoners who are alone, often abandoned by their families and who want penpals. It can be done protecting your identity. Contact Lloyd Rubin -firstname.lastname@example.org - for more information.
CANDLE LIGHTING - Novemsber 7:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:13 Hong Kong 5:25 Honolulu 5:33
J'Burg 6:10 London 4:05 Los Angeles 4:36
Melbourne 6:38 Miami 5:17 Moscow 4:22
New York 4:28 Singapore 6:33
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The wise man knows what he speaks,
but the fool speaks what he knows.
-- Yosef Caro
In grateful acknowledgment of