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Lech-Lecha 5782

The portion of Lech-Lecha introduces us fully to Abraham and Sarah – the couple responsible for announcing monotheism to the world. It was they who reintroduced the one and only G-d to a society who had expunged Him. Where civilisation had deleted G-d from the narrative, Abraham and Sarah pasted Him back into the frame. 

How did they operate? One person at a time.

The Talmud [Sotah 10b] goes into a little more detail. Abraham and Sarah were very hospitable. All passersby, without exception, were given a warm and friendly welcome. They were offered food and drink, and accommodation to rest. 

When they were ready to depart, they would offer profuse thanks to their hosts. Avraham immediately protested that the food and drink was not his, but a gift from G-d. It was to G-d that they were to offer thanks and praise. 

What if they refused? The Midrash [Bereishit Rabbah 49:4] records that if they did not want to direct their praise to G-d, Abraham would bill them for the fare. It wasn’t cheap. However, he offered to dismiss the outstanding amount if they acquiesced to his request and embrace Almighty G-d.

Although this method may seem to be forced, in reality Abraham was tapping into the souls of the passer-by, ending them of the truth that their souls already recognised and only needed to be brought forth into their speech and actions.

In this way, gradually, society began to change. One person at a time, the followers of Abraham and Sarah grew to extraordinary numbers. “The souls they had acquired in Charan” [12:5] is understood to be these followers and adherents to the beauty and reality of G-d. Abraham and Sarah had practically acquired them by influencing them to a more authentic existence.

All from one message. By just one couple.

As descendants of Abraham and Sarah, they are our role models. Abraham is referred to as ‘Avraham HaIvri’ [14:13]. The Midrash [Bereishis Rabbah 42:8] focuses on the word Ivri (translated as Hebrew) as being from the word Ever – the other side. “Avraham was on one side and the entire world was on the other.” He was confident and unshakeable in his belief. Against him was a sceptical world who believed he was insane. 

But, one person at a time, one moment after another, he began to change the scene. He ensured that his descendants would carry his torch to bring Heaven down to Earth. 

Abraham understood the power of a message – both in hope and healing, and the opposite. Our challenge is to always use our individual platform to make the world a better place, and to become better people.

“Wise ones, watch your words” [Ethics of the Fathers. 1:11]  

Have a great Shabbat!

Rabbi Rodal

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