PARASHAT LECH L'CHA Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Gen 12:1 – 17:27; Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16; John 8: 51-58
Why Abraham? That is the question that haunts us when we read the opening of this week’s parsha. Here is the key figure in the story of our faith, the father of our nation, the hero of monotheism, held holy not only by Jews but by Christians and Muslims also. Yet there seems to be nothing in the Torah’s description of his early life to give us a hint as to why he was singled out to be the person to whom God said, “I will make you into a great nation … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
This is surpassingly strange. The Torah leaves us in no doubt as to why God chose Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generations; Noah walked with God.” It also gives us a clear indication as to why God chose Moses. We see him as a young man, both in Egypt and Midian, intervening whenever he saw injustice, whoever perpetrated it and whoever it was perpetrated against. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart; I have appointed you as a Prophet to the nations.” These were obviously extraordinary people.
There is no such intimation in the case of Abraham. What we can deduce is that Abraham was the first person in recorded history to protest the injustice of the world in the name of God, rather than accept it in the name of God. Abraham was the man who said: “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justly?” Where Noah accepted, Abraham did not. Abraham is the man of whom God said, “I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” Abraham was the father of a nation, a faith, a civilisation, marked throughout the ages by what Albert Einstein called “an almost fanatical love of justice.”
I believe that Abraham is the father of faith, not as acceptance but as protest – protest at the flames that threaten the palace, the evil that threatens God’s gracious world. We fight those flames by acts of justice and compassion that deny evil its victory and bring the world that is a little closer to the world that ought to be.
And of course, Abraham is remembered as Avraham Avinu – Avraham, the father of the Jewish people. But, he is also remembered as the Father of all who believe in Yeshua, our Messiah! He remains a remarkable biblical figure. My personal take is that anyone who would circumcise himself at age 99 is worthy of the title of being called a tsaddik – a righteous individual!
Abraham Saw My Day FFOZ
Out of the great and dreadful darkness that overcame Abraham, the LORD appeared in the light of a flaming torch and passed between the sacrificial portions of the covenant. The LORD spoke to Abraham and made promises to him about the birth of a seed and about his seed returning and taking possession the land of Canaan.On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.” (Genesis 15:18)
Genesis 15:18 seems to allude to the final redemption when it says that the LORD made His covenant with Abraham “on that day.” The prophets use the formulaic words, “on that day,” to indicate the future day of the LORD, the hour of judgment, and the final redemption. The LORD showed Abraham the future through the vision recorded in Genesis 15. The sages say, “He revealed to him the future from the day of the Exodus from Egypt until the day of Messiah.” The tradition about Abraham’s vision of the Messianic Era explains why our Master said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Messiah—the coming kingdom of heaven on earth.
On what day did the LORD make His covenant with Abraham? The exodus from Egypt occurred four hundred and thirty years later “on that very day” (Exodus 12:41). That means that the exodus from Egypt and the first day of Passover (Nisan 15) coincided with the anniversary of the very day that God made the covenant with Abraham. Four hundred and thirty years before the first Passover, Abraham slaughtered the animals for his covenant on the fourteenth of Nisan. Then he waited. He drove off the birds. He waited for the LORD. The sun went down, darkness fell, and the fifteenth of Nisan began, which is the first day of the week of Passover. The Almighty appeared in the form of the blazing torch and made the covenant with Abraham.
This implies that on the anniversary of the day on which Abraham slaughtered the animals in order to make the covenant between the parts with the LORD—that self-same day, the fourteenth of Nisan—the children of Israel slaughtered their Passover lambs in Egypt. What is more, our Master suffered and died on the anniversary of that same day. On the anniversary of the night that Abraham had his vision of great and terrible darkness, the angel of death slew Egypt’s firstborn.
On the eve of Passover, as the sun set, they closed the Master’s tomb. A great and dreadful darkness fell, but out of the darkness, a light blazed forth.