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Welcome to another Torah Portion break down for the week of Lech Lecha 5782.
My name is Matthew. I welcome comments and questions you might have about what is presented here. I am humbly reading through the Word to make observations and ask questions of my own.
5782 Lech Lecha Aliyah by Aliyah
There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions. For example in Beresheet The Sephardi have all of chapter 1 plus a bit of chapter 2 as an aliyah, while the Ashkenazi first Aliyah is Genesis 1:1-13. THEN they converge at Aliyah 6 and continue in sync for the seventh and final aliyah. I point this out because I find it interesting, delightful and slightly irritating all at the same time. Honestly, I think the take away should be humility and a very soft pluralism based on individual community standards.
Below you will find my observations and questions sparked by Torah Portion Lech Lecha. I decided to work section by section and examine the Word aliyah by aliyah.
LECH LECHA – GENESIS 12: 1-17:27
Aliyah 1 – Genesis 12:1-13
12:1 Now HaShem said to Avram, “Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing.
[12:1-2] Avram must be someone special. What did he do to merit being called? One thing he has going for him is that he is from the line of Shem, but so was his father and grandfather. Shem is still alive at this point in history. Why not call out to him? Maybe being of that line isn’t enough. I suspect it was something in Avram’s character that made him special to HaShem.
12:3 I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
[12:3] Noach cursed Ham’s son Kena’an for his insult or “curse” laid on him. I suppose this is in line with that, but this is a really big deal. Anyone who curses Avram will be cursed by HaShem. Wow.
[12:3] To what degree? What does that mean? I wonder if all nations will be blessed by Avram because they will bless him out of their own self-interest. Wait, this says that “by you (Avram) all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So all the nations or families of the earth will be blessed by Avram. That is more of a definitive statement. Throughout history, the Jewish people have made so many wonderful contributions to humanity; those may be part of this, but I imagine this prophecy is really about Messiah. HaShem’s will has always been to have fellowship with Man. That got messed up in the garden, but HaShem’s will be done.
12:4 So Avram went, as HaShem had said to him, and Lot went with him. Avram was 75 years old when he left Haran.
Did people live at home until very late in life at the time? Was Avram helping take care of Terach? I guess there would be no real reason to more out in a situation where you live on acres and acres of land and have flocks or herds to care for. People had to work to live in a much more profound way than today. Since many hands make light the load, it probably made more sense to live in small clans to ensure that everyone was provided for. If you needed privacy, I imagine you could just pitch your tent a ways from others and have the space you need.
12:5 Avram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, as well as the people they had acquired in Haran; then they set out for the land of Kena‘an and entered the land of Kena‘an.
[12:5] Who are the people they acquired in Haran?
12:6 Avram passed through the land to the place called Sh’khem, to the oak of Moreh. The Kena‘ani were then in the land. 7 HaShem appeared to Avram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to HaShem, who had appeared to him.
[12:6-7] The Kena’ani were in the land at that time. There are 10 generations from Adam to Noach and 10 generations from Noach to Avram. Shem is Avram’s ancestor. I have heard it said that the Kena’ani forcibly took the Land of Israel from Shem’s descendants. I would have to dig in to discern that here, but there were 5 generations from Noach to Avram’s ancestor, Ever, who would have been the first to speak Hebrew as his primary language post-Bavel Tower. The peoples were scattered by languages at that time. That leaves up to 5 generations for these Kena’ani to have come into the Shemi Lands and taken them by force. According to the curse of Noach on Kena’an, they are to be subordinated to Shem and his descendants. Explicitly Kena’an is cursed to serve Shem, while Yefet is to be in fellowship with Shem, but Shem will have primacy. If Kena’an was cursed to serve Shem, then he should never be allowed to seize the property of his master.
[12:7] This altar building goes back to Noach. He made an offering after the Flood. Cain and Abel made offerings too. Did Adam and Chavah make offerings? Did HaShem instruct them how to do it? Did everyone just make up how to do it? How to serve the Master of the Universe? I am guessing no, based on the Levitical system.
12:10 But there was a famine in the land, so Avram went down into Egypt to stay there, because the famine in the land was severe.
[12:10] Was Avram supposed to go into Egypt at this time? Was that the right thing to do? Would he have been saved from the famine if he had stayed in the Land? Did HaShem cause the famine to send him into Egypt or to test his faith?
12:13 Please say that you are my sister, so that it will go well with me for your sake, and so that I will stay alive because of you.”
[12:13] Or is THIS the test? Did HaShem want Avram to tell the truth and have faith that HaShem would protect him? HaShem protected Sarai from harm when she was away from Avram, so why wouldn’t he have protected her when she was with Avram? Why wouldn’t HaShem have protected Avram for his own sake? I am trying to say that he protected Sarai to protect her, so it seems to me that He would protect Avram to protect him.
Aliyah 2 – Genesis 12:14-13:4
12:14 When Avram entered Egypt, the Egyptians did notice that the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s princes saw her and commended her to Pharaoh, so the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 He treated Avram well for her sake, giving him sheep, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female slaves, and camels.
[12:14-16] We don’t know this yet, but later on the text says Sarai is 10 years younger than Avram. She must have been quite the 65 year-old beauty for Pharaoh to pay so rich a bride price to her so-called brother to add her to his harem.
Aliyah 3 – Genesis 13:5-18
13:14 HaShem said to Avram, after Lot had moved away from him, “Look all around you from where you are, to the north, the south, the east and the west. 15 All the land you see I will give to you and your descendants forever, 16 and I will make your descendants as numerous as the specks of dust on the earth — so that if a person can count the specks of dust on the earth, then your descendants can be counted.
[13:14-16] Why did HaShem come to Avram after Lot had departed? Was Lot’s presence interfering with HaShem’s objective? It’s funny because Ruth is a descendant of Lot and she’s King David’s granny and in the line of Messiah. That’s important. Did Avram need to leave behind the last remnant of his father’s house, in the person of Lot, in order to fully receive the destiny HaShem had for him?
Aliyah 4 – Genesis 14:1-20
14:19 so he blessed him with these words:
“Blessed be Avram by El ‘Elyon,
maker of heaven of earth.
20 and blessed be El ‘Elyon,
who handed your enemies over to you.”
Avram gave him a tenth of everything.
[14:19-20] If you have been reading the Torah from Genesis 1:1, this section is even more impressive. HaShem spoke the universe into being, commanded all the animals to fill the earth, He formed man out of the earth, He breathed His own breath into that man, He gave him a wife and then He walked with the two of them in the garden He provided for them. This infinite cosmic being cares for you. He empowers a man and his small band of fighters to over come an army of FOUR kings who had defeated an army of FIVE kings. This makes no sense to the world, but HaShem cares deeply about the lives of those He loves and He loves us all. When Avram and His men were victorious through the Almighty, not only Lot and his people were saved, but so were the women and others who had been captured by the Four Kings.
Aliyah 5 – Genesis 14:21-15:6
15:2 Avram replied, “HaShem, G-d, what good will your gifts be to me if I continue childless; and Eli‘ezer from Dammesek inherits my possessions? 3 You haven’t given me a child,” Avram continued, “so someone born in my house will be my heir.”
[15:2-3] It isn’t a problem to question G-d. There are some people who say that if spouses never have disagreements there is something wrong. I wonder if that is true in a way with HaShem. If you are close to Him, you’ll have questions and you’ll struggle with what He is doing in your life at times, but you stay committed to the One True King, no matter what.
Aliyah 6 – Genesis 15:7-17:6
15:9 He answered him, “Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove and a young pigeon.”
[15:9] What is the significance of the animals for the cut covenant being 3 years old? Yearling animals are the most commonly brought of the herd animals, if I recall correctly. That seems like an odd specification. I wonder if that is how it was done in the culture at the time or if the animals had more heft and therefore made a more substantial pathway for them to walk through.
16:10 The angel of HaShem said to her, “I will greatly increase your descendants; there will be so many that it will be impossible to count them.”
17:5 Your name will no longer be Avram [exalted father], but your name will be Avraham [father of many], because I have made you the father of many nations. 6 I will cause you to be very fruitful. I will make nations of you, kings will descend from you.
[16:10, 17:5-6] Do Avram and Hagar have some sort of destiny together? Sarai is not promised that she will be a mother of multitudes. Or is she? There is a teaching that Avraham’s wife, after Sarah dies, Keturah is actually Hagar and I can see these verses here as possibly supporting that view.
Aliyah 7 – Genesis 17:7-27
17: 7 “I am establishing my covenant between me and you, along with your descendants after you, generation after generation, as an everlasting covenant, to be G-d for you and for your descendants after you. 8 I will give you and your descendants after you the land in which you are now foreigners, all the land of Kena‘an, as a permanent possession; and I will be their G-d.”
[17:7-8] My fellow Gentiles, moreso my Christian borthers and sisters, these verses are crucuial in understanding our relationship with HaShem and the Jewish People. Israel is the heritage of Avraham. When HaShem put him to sleep and walked through the halves of the animals to seal the covenant by Himself in the form of the smoking pot and flaming torch, He made Himself responsible for Avraham’s end of the bargain. Israel and the 12 Tribes inherit that blessing and that commitment from HaShem. We who know Yeshua as Messiah believe he is the fulfillment of that promise, that he is the flaming torch who banishes the darkness and brings us into the holy light of the Most High, but he is from Israel and he is called the root of Israel and the First Fruits of Israel, so that none will be cut off who number among his. We need to take care with how we think of our Jewish brethren, lest we make a liar of G-d and cast doubt on the Might of Messiah’s redemptive work.
That concludes my journey through Lech Lecha for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.