Who was Abram? Who am I?
Shalom Community Shear Yashuv.
Shabbat Shalom to everyone (from Rabbi Iosef Chemi from Argentina)
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be able to speak to you about Lech Lecha, a truly beautiful parashah.
Bereshit 17: 1 says: “Vayehi Avram ben tish’im shanah v’tesha shanim; Vayera Adonai el-Avram vayomer eilaiv: ani El-Shaddai hithalech lefanai vehiyeh tamim.”
א וַיְהִי אַבְרָם, בֶּן-תִּשְׁעִים שָׁנָה וְתֵשַׁע שָׁנִים; וַיֵּרָא יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי-אֵל שַׁדַּי–הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי, וֶהְיֵה תָמִים. 1 “And when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him: ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be wholehearted.“
Bereshit 17 begins in the context of the covenant of Brit Mila. In this parashah, the Bore Olam is making a pact with Abram, giving him three things to hold onto for the future: A God who would always be with him; a people who would descend from him, and a land for that people. That is God’s promise to Abram … but what is Abram’s part, because in every covenant there is always an offer from one side and an obligation on the other. For Abram, it involves “hitalech lefanai, “walk before Me”, that is, “serve Me”. And the other thing that God asked of him was to go “yihiyei tamim, be wholehearted or without guile”, that is, to have pure and honest kavanah, intention, to walk the days of his life to serve the Eternal, the Only One.
The name of God that appears in this Parashah is Shaddai, “she dai”, “that which is enough”. That is to say, if we walk in and accept this covenant then we will realize and learn that His being, the Only One, Blessed Be He, is enough for our soul – the One Who absolutely completes our soul.
Now … Abram will receive a name change from Abram to Abraham, adding a “hei” that would make him the father of all peoples, and Sarai, my princess, would be renamed Sarah, (ending in hei) the princess of all. Then in Abraham and Sarah, we have a marriage, a nucleus, a couple who make up the masculine and the feminine aspects of mankind – midat haDin מִדַּת הַדִּין , and midat haRachamim הָרַחֲמִים מִדַּת, the attributes of justice and mercy. These form a unity of two beings on a path of encounter with the Divine.
But Abraham … who was he?
Lech Lecha (לֶךְ־לְךָ֛) literally means “go to yourself”, “leave your father’s house and your father’s land and your father’s culture and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless those who bless you and curse him who curses you and in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed”; this is Abraham.
But how did God come to this or how did Abraham come to be chosen by God? There are ten generations from Adam to Noah; ten generations from Noah to Avram; ten is a perfect number; ten is what Abraham achieved when he accepted this beautiful request from God. Lech Lecha, go to yourself, get out of your culture, get out of your land and become an ivri – the one who crosses the river, hever, “the one on the other side”; on the other side of what? – on the other side of a common life, that is Abraham.
How did Abraham get there? The Midrash tells us that from a very young age he tried to understand the origin of existence: Who am I? where I am? And where am I going? … very simple questions! And how did he do it? Through the intellect but not through logic alone but through the enlightened intellect which in the Kabbalah is called Keter (כֶּתֶר).
And how did he achieve such enlightenment? Through simple questions and answers: such as who created, who governs, why am I alive, why do I live, what is death, what is life, what should I do? Simple questions, simple answers? That pureness of heart, pureness of intention is what made him the father of the people of Israel.
Abraham grew up, as we all do, and developed his potential, like all of us. For example, when he went down to Egypt with Sarah, as we all know, he was afraid to die, so he told a half-truth and a half-lie: “Sarah is my sister”, and later when Sarah, pushed by God’s promise that Abraham would have descendants, believing that she herself was not going to have an offspring; she thought that he could have a son through Hagar, her servant and from there Ishmael was born. Then Hagar and Sarah fought, and Sarah told Abraham to expel her servant, Hagar and her son. Hagar exhausted Sarah with all her complaints and mocked her. So, Abraham went and did it … and so on but what does that show us? It shows us that Abraham grew from one experience to the next. And how could he keep going? Because he was an Ivri, from heber, the one who crossed the world from one side to the other, From the land of Ur of Chaldea, a land of paganism, and where did he go? to the world of Oneness. Because God told him “Lech lecha”, go to yourself, to the land that will I show you, it meant that He did not show him the land, rather that he was going to show it to him “as Abraham walked”. It was a process.
So, it is with us, especially as we face a huge challenge now, to rise above our own limitations, to join together and to cross over the riverbank – the fear of abandonment, putting everything aside that you thought you knew because God has not abandoned us. Be firm in how Yeshua will guide you. What do you have to do? What Abraham had to do… simply put, serve God and maintain the pureness of intention. Then God will continue to protect you; He will continue to unite you, and He will make the path ahead clear.
Beyond the sadness, beyond the beautiful memory that Rabbi Percy has left you, what remains is “you”, you who now have to unite, project into the future, WALK; you are going to stumble and you are going to have to get up as Abraham did.
The merit of Abraham has been Bitachon (בטחון), trust. Trust that the Creator was with him, that the Almighty when He says and decrees something, He DOES it. And no matter what the culture around us says, God’s Will is always fulfilled.
Let Abraham be the example for all of us; let Abraham be the example to give us strength and never forget, ever forget, that everything comes from God; Even this very moment which you are going through comes from God. From Him, we come and to Him, we go. So, elevate your hearts, be wholehearted and remain united!!!!