Weekly Torah study
Written and edited by Rosh Jamie Dallas
Every human being has goals and aspirations. Life is a long journey, and no two individuals have the exact same destination. And while sometimes we may temporarily stall in the course of this journey, our aims always simmer in the recesses of our minds, eventually boiling over and propelling us onwards.
As followers of the Meshi’ach, our aspirations also include a natural desire to become more spiritually attuned and thus draw nearer to our Father in Heaven. In this area, too, every individual's ambitions are "personalized," reflecting his or her understanding and appreciation for Torah and mitzvot. One person may consider a particular level of observance and spirituality to be the very acme of holiness, while another will view that very same level as a nice starting point.
This week's Torah portion begins with The Almighty's command to Abraham: “Go forth from your land…to the land that I will show you.” This is the first communication between Elohim and Abraham, the Ivri (Hebrew), which is related in the Torah. With this instruction YHWH also transmitted to Abraham an important foundation of Halacha (Walking in the Torah) which later became known as Judaism, lesson number one which every Israelite must study and implement.
YHWH instructed Abraham, and indeed every one of his descendants, to embark on a journey. Interestingly, YHWH did not inform Abraham of his final destination. He merely instructed Abraham to keep on traveling until he would receive an indication from Above that he had reached the “Promised Land” and his journey had ended. Having a defined goal is beneficial in other areas of life, but only serves as a handicap in a person's spiritual life-journey. It is certainly wise to carefully plan the next segment of the journey, but the destination itself must remain open-ended. YHWH is infinite; the divine essence of every righteous soul is infinite; so why place limitations on the heights one wishes to achieve?
At the outset of his divinely ordained voyage, seventy-five-year-old Abraham had no clue what lay in store for him when he arrived at his eventual destination. It is safe to assume that he never dreamt of arriving in a land “flowing with milk and honey,” a land which would be bequeathed to the descendants of a child who would be miraculously born to his barren wife Sarah. He had no idea that as a result of this journey his descendants would be chosen by YHWH to be His ambassadors to this world, chosen to have the privilege of illuminating the globe with the light of Torah and Mitzvot (Commandments).
“The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.” We too have the ability to accomplish far more than we can imagine in our wildest dreams. But the first step is embarking on an open-ended journey.
(Silberberg, Naftali. A Journey with an Unknown Destination)
Sunday (Genesis 12:1-13):
YHWH 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, YHWH 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, The Almighty 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. (Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary)
Monday (Genesis 12:14 - 13:4):
And indeed because of her beauty, Sarai was taken captive and brought to Pharaoh. Elohim 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. (Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary)
Tuesday (Genesis 13:5-18):
Lot, who had accompanied Abram and Sarai, was independently wealthy. When Lot's shepherds quarreled 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, YHWH 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. (Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary)
Wednesday (Genesis 14:1-20):
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. Then Abraham has a mysterious encounter with a person named Melek-Tzedek. (Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary)
Thursday (Genesis 14:21 - 15:6):
Abram rebuffed the king of Sodom's wish to award him with all the war's spoils. When YHWH 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?!” The Almighty assured Abram that he would indeed have a child and gave Abram the evidence of this fact by showing an astrological sign in the stars of the heavens. (Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary)
Friday (Genesis 15:7 - 17:6):
Abram requested a sign from YHWH that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. YHWH responded in the famous “Covenant Between the Parts.” Abram and the Divine Presence (Shekinah) passed between an assortment of halved animals, and YHWH 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, The Almighty 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, Elohim added the Hebrew letter hey ( ה) to Abram's name, making it “Abraham.”
(Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary)
Shabbat (Genesis 17:7-27):
YHWH 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 by adding the Hebrew letter hey ( ה) as well. The Almighty 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. (Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary)
The first mitzvah that is performed on a Hebrew baby boy is the mitzvah of circumcision. In Hebrew this is called the Brit Milah (Covenant of Circumcision). This mitzvah is referred to, in the blessing recited by the father at the circumcision, as “the covenant of Abraham,” as it was to Abraham that YHWH commanded: “This is My covenant, which you shall observe between Me and between you and your seed after you, that every male among you be circumcised.” (Genesis 17:10)
Reasons for this mitzvah
Many reasons are given for this mitzvah, one of them is that it establishes a sign, affixed in our flesh, that we are believers in the one Almighty, YHWH. Another reason given is that the Almighty left this sign for us to make rather than creating us with it, in order to symbolize that just as we can and must perfect our bodies, so too we can and must perfect our souls. Also, this commandment was given to symbolize that the covenant with YHWH is eternal and must be passed on to the next generations.
Why the eighth day?
Several reasons are given as to why the Torah commands us to wait until the eighth day before performing the circumcision. (Though these may be part of the reason, ultimately, we do it on the eighth day—not earlier or later [unless medically necessary, see below]—because this is what YHWH commanded.)
The consequences of not observing this mitzvah
One whose father did not circumcise him and who, upon reaching adulthood, willfully never circumcises himself, is punished by having his soul cut off from its Divine source, which is called Karet. As the verse states: “And an uncircumcised male, who will not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin, that soul will be cut off from its people; he has broken My covenant.” (Genesis 17:14.) This is one of only two positive commandments whose neglect carries this punishment. The other is the Paschal (Passover) sacrifice.
(Citron, Aryeh. The Mitzvah of Circumcision)
What does the Haftarah (Isaiah 40:27-41:16) and the Brit ha-Chadash (John 8:51–58) have in common with the Sabbath School Lesson?
Next Week’s Readings: Parashat Vayera / ( פּרָָשׁתַ ויַּרֵָא )
Torah: Genesis 18:1-22:24
Haftarah: II Kings 4:1-37
Brit ha-Chadasha: Luke 17:28–37
Sources used for this Weeks Portion are Derived from:
Lech Lecha Aliyah Summary, Chabad.org, retrieved on October 27, 2023. https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/576513/jewish/Aliyah-Summary.htm
Citron, Aryeh. The Mitzvah of Circumcision. Chabad.org, retrieved on October 12, 2018. https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/2474688/jewish/How-many-years-did-the-Jews-spend-in-Egypt.htm