Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lech Lecha


The coming week's Torah portion is Lech Lecha; here's a brief outline of this action-packed portion:

Our portion begins with Gd's instruction to Avraham and Sarah - then named Avram and Sarai - to travel to Israel. He promises to make Avraham's descendants into a great nation, and to give them great blessings.

Avraham and Sarah, with Sarah's brother Lot, arrive in Israel and began to travel around the land. They experience a famine, though, and they leave Israel for Egypt. Sarah pretends to be Avraham's sister rather than his wife, lest the Pharaoh decide to kill Avraham in order to take Sarah (note that Avraham and Sarah expected that Sarah would have been taken to the Pharaoh either way; Avraham was not asking her to give her own life to save his). Sure enough, Sarah is taken to the Pharaoh, but the Pharaoh suffers a mysterious ailment inflicted by Gd whenever he approaches her, causing him to release her.

Avraham and Sarah leave Egypt, heading back to Israel. Lot splits from the family, as he has grown in wealth and needs his own space. He opts for the area of S'dom (Sodom); he selects the site for its beauty. Lot runs into trouble, though. An alliance of four kings defeats the forces of S'dom and four other nations, and captures him in the process. Avraham hears of this and comes to the rescue, defeating the four kings. He refuses to take from the spoils, though, asking only for an amount for his allies. Avraham says he does not want anyone to be able to say that he had enriched Avraham.

Gd then appears to Avraham and promises him great wealth. Avraham replies that wealth is useless to him, as he has no heir. Gd responds that Avraham and Sarah will have children, and those children will be strangers in a land not their own. They will be oppressed, and then they will return to Israel with great wealth.

Sarah sees that she cannot become pregnant, and she convinces Avraham to take her servant, Hagar, as a concubine. Hagar immediately becomes pregnant, and begins to treat Sarah poorly. Sarah responds by giving Hagar more work, and Hagar flees the house. An angel appears to her and instructs her to return to the house, informing her also about her son Yishmael's violent future.

Thirteen years later, Gd tells Avram that he will now be called "Avraham (Father of many nations)" instead of "Avram (Great father)." Sarai will now be called "Sarah (Queen)" instead of "Sarai (My queen)." Gd promises them that they will have a son, who will become a great nation.

Avraham is given the mitzvah of circumcision, and he circumcises his household.

Have a great day,

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