LECH LECHA (Genesis, 12:1-17:27) — “The Reward for a Mitzvah…”

We’ve all heard of the city of Sodom.  That’s the city that, along with Gemorrah and some smaller cities, was destroyed by G-d because of its decadence.  Before that fateful event, Abraham gave up the opportunity to become its king.

As the result of a regional battle between several kings, Sodom was defeated and Lot was captured.  Lot, the nephew and brother-in-law of Abram (his name had not yet been changed to Abraham) had been attracted to the materialism of Sodom and moved there.  Abram was informed that Lot was in danger and organized a military force to liberate Sodom.

After the defeat of Sodom’s captors, the king of Sodom approached Abram with a request.  Unlike the surrounding neighbors of today’s State of Israel, the king accepted the fact that according to international rules of war, “to the victor go the spoils.”  As such, he recognized Abram as the new king of Sodom.  However, he requested an exception:

Give me the people.  You can keep the property.” (Genesis (14:21)

The king didn’t mind allowing Abram to take possession of the vast riches and real estate of his kingdom.  Abram could now become rich beyond his wildest dreams.  All the king wanted was to continue as the monarch of his now-humbled realm.  He must have been shocked by the response:

I lift my hand to G-d… (to swear that I will not take as much as) a string or a sandal strap or anything that is yours.  You will not have the opportunity to claim ‘I made Abram rich!’ ” (Ibid, 22-23)

Abram had total faith in G-d’s promise to provide for him.  He wanted the entire world to see that whatever he possessed was a gift from G-d.  Any claims to the contrary would water down the message of G-d’s Providence.  Therefore, he refused the offer.  The king could keep his wealth as well as his subjects.

G-d rewarded Abram’s faith.  Abram showed that he had total faith in G-d to give him his material needs.   Since Abram refused money from the king, G-d rewarded him with…Mitzvahs!

As a reward for refusing to accept something as insignificant as a Sodomite strand of string, Abram’s children were given the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, the strings that are tied onto the four-cornered Tallis.  Because Abram wouldn’t accept as much as a sandal strap from Sodom, his children were given the Mitzvah of Tefillin, which are tied on with leather straps.

Abram refused the material wealth that gives us comfort only in this world.  He was given the spiritual wealth of G-d’s Commandments, which provide for us in the next world.

A great selfless act on the part of our great patriarch.  However, he still could have done more.  The Talmud (Nedarim 32a) tells us that Abram made a big mistake that day.  He is taken to task for not reversing the king’s request.

Abram is rewarded for refusing the king’s offer of money.  But he should also have refused the king’s request to remain the ruler of Sodom.

Abram was the Great Teacher.  He was the one who taught the world that there is one G-d in the world and that we need to serve Him with piety and self-control.  Perhaps, had Abram become the king of Sodom, he might have been able to teach them how to live lives of morality and justice.  Instead, the old king returned to Sodom.  As a result, Sodomite society, with its “X-Rated” system of “morals,” returned to its wicked and self-destructive ways.

It’s not good enough to be righteous.  We also have to teach others to be righteous.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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From the Archives

“The Surrogate Mother and the Terrorist” (2009) 

…What a story!  Sarai can’t conceive, so she makes Hagar her “surrogate.”  Hagar conceives right away and “disses” Sarai.  Sarai persecutes Hagar, causing her to lose her baby and run away.  The angel tells Hagar to accept Sarai’s tough treatment, and promises that since G-d has heard her prayer, she will give birth to the father of the nation that will eventually give us Arafat, bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein!

Sarai’s behavior is puzzling… 

Read more.

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“CHANGE!!” (2008)

 Let’s face it. CHANGE is in the air.  Our country is beginning to undergo a fundamental change in its entire method of doing business.  Some of us welcome the change.  Some of us are profoundly disappointed.  Some of us have great hope and optimism for the future that will be heralded in by our new president and Congress.  Others are frustrated and frightened by what will happen to our economy, our status in the world, our security andIsrael’s security.

Let me give both sides a bit of news.  You’re both wrong!…

Read more.

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 “Tune that Name!” (2006)

… it is the universal desire of all parents to give their child an honorable name, and to bless him with the hope that he will grow up to bring credit to his name…

It is, therefore, rather surprising that we find that several of the Sages of the Talmud were named Rabbi Yishmael.  Ishmael, the oldest son of Abraham, does not seem to be a person whom we would want our children to emulate…

How could it be that parents would want to name their children after such a scoundrel?…

Read more.

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“There Goes the Neighborhood!” (2005)

… It has happened so many times… How many nations have invited us in, enjoyed success, and then kicked us out?…

This past Tuesday, a rabbi I know was standing in front of the building where he had just voted.  One of our fellow citizens walked past him and made a comment that says it all: “I can’t stand looking at you people!”

Nice…

Read more.

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“The Soul Maker” (2003)

He gazed into her eyes.  He whispered to her words he had never said before.  “I now realize how beautiful you are!”

How romantic!  Who was this young man, who was expressing his fond appreciation of his beloved’s radiance?  Who was this lovely young beauty, the subject of his admiration?

This couple, who had dedicated their lives to teaching Torah, were no youngsters.  He was 75 years old.  She was 65.  His name was Abram; hers, Sarai.  (Later known as Abraham and Sarah.)…

Read more.

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“The Salem Trial” (2002)

… It was a major superpower summit.  The most powerful men in the world were about to meet… Chapter 14 of Genesis describes what should probably be called the First World War.  Five kings went to war against four kings.  … What would happen when these two leaders would meet? …  How did “Malchizedek-the-bartender” become “Malchizedek-the-Priest”????? …

Read more.

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“The Reward for a Mitzvah…” (2001)

…We’ve all heard of the city ofSodom… Abraham gave up the opportunity to become its king… A great selfless act on the part of our great patriarch.  However, he still could have done more…

Read more.

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“A Covenant of Dedication” (2000)

… The Mohel performed the Bris and handed the child to his mother who embraced him, kissed him, and fainted flat out onto the floor!…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at http://TorahTalk.org . Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in  Monsey,  New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on October 24, 2001 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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