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Parshah of the Week

This week’s Parashah is Lech Lecha – Shabbat 16 October 2021

G‑d commanded Abram to leave his father’s house and homeland, and travel to the land that He will show him. As reward for doing so, G‑d promised to make Abram the patriarch of a great nation. Abram obeyed, taking along his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. Once Abram arrived in Canaan, G‑d informed him that He will eventually give that land to his descendants. Abram traverses the length of the land until a famine forces him to travel to Egypt. Fearing that the Egyptians would kill him in order to take Sarai, Abram asked her to allege that he was her brother.

And indeed because of her beauty, Sarai was taken captive and brought to Pharaoh. G‑d struck the members of Pharaoh’s palace with a plague, causing Pharaoh to hastily release Sarai. Pharaoh loaded Abram and Sarai with gifts and riches, and had them escorted out of his land. Abram returned triumphantly to Canaan.

Lot, who had accompanied Abram and Sarai, was independently wealthy. When Lot’s shepherds quarrelled with Abram’s shepherds, the two parted ways, with Lot settling in the province of Sodom, which was renowned for its evil inhabitants. After Lot departed, G‑d spoke to Abram again, reiterating His promise to bequeath the land to his descendants, and promising to make his descendants numerous as the soil of the earth.

The southern region of Canaan was embroiled in a major war involving many kings. When the dust settled, the victorious kings took captive all the inhabitants of the Sodom region — Lot included. When Abram was informed of Lot’s plight he rushed to the rescue along with a handful of men, engaged the victorious kings in battle, soundly defeated them, released all the captives and returned all the spoils.

Abram rebuffed the king of Sodom’s wish to award him with all the war’s spoils. When G‑d reassured Abram that he would be greatly rewarded for his righteousness, Abram broaches his childlessness. “What is the point of all the reward and wealth,” Abram cried, “if I have no heir to inherit it?!” G‑d assured Abram that he will indeed have a child, and promised that Abram’s descendants will be as numerous as the stars of the heaven.

Abram requested a sign from G‑d that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. G‑d responded in the famous “Covenant Between the Parts.” Abram and the Divine Presence passed between an assortment of halved animals, and G‑d told Abram that his descendants would be exiled and in bondage for four hundred years. At the conclusion of this period, Abram’s descendants would leave with great wealth, G‑d would punish the nations which enslaved them, and Abram’s children would inherit the lands of Canaan. Following this pact, Sarai — seeing that she and Abram were still childless — suggested that Abram father a child with her Egyptian maid, Hagar. Hagar conceived and began to mistreat her mistress Sarai, who responded with a heavy hand, prompting Hagar to flee. Hagar encountered an angel who encouraged her to return to Sarai, promising her that the child she will bear will become a great nation. She obeyed, and gave birth to Ishmael. At the very end of this section, G‑d added the letter hey to Abram’s name, making it “Abraham.”

G‑d sealed a covenant with Abraham and his descendants; the sign of the covenant is the circumcision of all males when they are eight days old. Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and G‑d promises a delighted Abraham that he will father another son, this time from Sarah. At the age of 99, Abraham circumcised himself, his son Ishmael, and all the members of his household.