This blog is part of my theme for this year’s weekly Parsha Readings — How God Can Thrive in the Age of Sustainability. Sustainability, in its essence, means leaving a better world for future generations. This includes ESG — Environment, Society, and Governance (Ethics /Morals).
Parsha Lech Lecha covers Genesis 12:1–17:27 and tells the story of Abraham’s journey in response to God’s command to “Lech Lecha,” which means “Go forth” or “Get yourself out.” Abraham, originally named Abram, leaves his homeland with his wife Sarai (later Sarah) and his nephew Lot and Itold to go to the Land of Canaan (Israel). God promises to make him the father of a great nation and bless all the families of the Earth through him.
Throughout the Parsha, Abraham and Sarah face various challenges, including a famine in Canaan that leads them to Egypt, where they encounter difficulties but ultimately return to Canaan. The portion also recounts the war between the four kings and the five kings, in which Abraham rescues Lot. It ends with God establishing a covenant with Abraham, which includes the commandment of circumcision as a sign of this covenant. Lech Lecha highlights the importance of faith, trust in God, and the beginning of the covenant between God and the Jewish people through Abraham. And this is the start of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. Israel is the ultimate Home of all Jews, and this Parsha and calls us to make Aliyah to the Land of Israel.
The Relevance of War
This is cause for reflection especially today as we seek to return and rescue the hostages held by Hamas and the Palestinians. May be it be soon. May it be today!! today!! #bringthemhome
The war mentioned in the story of Abraham’s rescue of Lot from the four kings (Genesis 14) in Parsha Lech Lecha can offer several relevant lessons for today:
1. Courage and justice: Abraham displayed great courage by taking on a challenging military operation to rescue his nephew, Lot. This underscores the importance of standing up for what is just and protecting one’s family and community in the face of adversity.
2. Unity and alliances: Abraham formed alliances with neighboring leaders like Mamre, Aner, and Eshkol to successfully wage this war. This teaches the value of working together and forming alliances to achieve common goals and face external threats.
3. Responsibility and compassion: Abraham’s willingness to rescue Lot highlights the moral responsibility we have toward our relatives and fellow human beings. It serves as a reminder to show compassion and help those in need.
4. The cost of war: The war itself had consequences, including suffering and loss of life. This reminds us of the tragic human costs of conflicts and the importance of seeking peaceful resolutions when possible.
5. Leadership and strategy: Abraham’s leadership and strategic thinking played a crucial role in the success of the rescue mission. This illustrates the importance of wise leadership and thoughtful planning in addressing challenges and conflicts.
In contemporary times, these lessons can be applied to situations of conflict, both on a personal and societal level. The story encourages values like courage, unity, compassion, and responsible leadership, which remain relevant for addressing conflicts and challenges in the modern world.
I thought these words extracted from Chat GPT provides strong relevancy for today as Israel is besieged by the biased media.
Challenging the idols of our time
I am sharing Inspirational thoughts from Rabbi Sacks which leads us to ponder why Abraham was chosen as the founder of the Jewish people. Rabbi Sacks provides a fascinating insight by suggesting that Abraham was the first person to challenge the idols of his age, which included practices such as pagan worship. As descendants of Abraham, it becomes our responsibility to challenge the idols of our time.
So, what are the idols of our age? They manifest in various forms, from capitalism and dictatorship to socialism, democracy, wokeism, and even climate change. I would add biased media, Antisemitism and a lack of morals and sense of right and wrong.
While I support efforts to enhance the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework, it’s clear that our age is marked by a lack of morals and ethics, evident in business practices, world politics, greed, and beyond. This is not a new phenomenon; history has witnessed colonialism, collaborations between nations and corporations, and the exploitation of resources by trading giants.
Amid these challenges, there is a pressing moral battle between good and evil, right and wrong. Ignoring the plight of Israel and the atrocities it has endured, including ongoing hostage situations, is a testament to this moral struggle.
In the Torah, we find lessons in the war that Abraham was involved in, facing the four kings versus the five kings. Even in those ancient times, Israel held significant strategic importance, with world powers focusing on this region. It was during this conflict that Abraham’s nephew Lot was captured, prompting Abraham to raise an army to save him. This war offers us many lessons.
Another noteworthy biblical account is that of Sodom and Gomorrah, where God sought to destroy these cities due to their wickedness. Today, we see evil emanating from groups like Hamas, and we must not turn a blind eye to it. Whether we’re discussing the BDS movement or the “River to the Sea,” the implications are disturbing — these expressions represent a call for violence against Jews.
Our moral imperative is clear; we must change the narrative. It’s disheartening to see Israel unjustly blamed for humanitarian crises when it has been actively involved in providing support and aid to Gaza for decades. We must strive to bring the truth to light.
In Rabbi Sacks’ own words, “I believe that Abraham is a father of faith, not as acceptance but as protest. We fight the flames that threaten the palace, the evil that threatens God’s gracious world, through acts of justice and compassion that deny evil and bring the world a little closer to the world that ought to be.”
I’d like to highlight the powerful words of Dr. Phil and Noah Tishby, who have passionately addressed these issues. Dr. Phil emphasizes the need to focus on the moral compass of the American public, particularly in universities, to counteract the spread of darkness, hatred, and ignorance.
Noah Tishby https://www.instagram.com/reel/CyrHWQ5vO18/
Here are some of her emotive words:
“What we experienced on and since October 7 was sadly, predictable. We’ve warned of the danger of radical Islam or, more accurately, the radical Islamic Nazism that is constantly lurking at Israel’s borders. And we’ve warned of the ongoing grooming of Western civilization — through universities, the media, and social media. We warned what the phrase “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free” really looks like. It means “itbach al Yahud” — “slaughter the Jews.”
This demonization of Israel is not “progressive”, it’s not peaceful and it absolutely won’t Free Palestine. It is a modern-day blood libel calculated to incite, pave the way for, and then justify — a genocide.
We’ve seen it for over three and a half thousand years of Jewish “lived experience”. It’s the generational trauma that is in our bones. We understand it. That, is our “Jewish privilege.” We knew where it would lead, and we are devastated to be proven right.
Israel is one of the greatest stories ever told and its vilification is one of the greatest smear campaigns in the history of the world. But we have news for you: when we say Never Again, we mean it. When you tell us you want to kill us, we believe you. And when you set out to do it in the most horrific of ways, we will defeat you.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with the families of Israelis and Americans held hostage by the Hamas terrorists and demand they return the hostages now! Bring them home!
Above all I am grateful that for the generations to come, the Jewish people will still live, love, and thrive and reach out a hand to the world. And Hamas will be nothing but a footnote in history, just like those who tried to exterminate us before.
Am Yisrael Chai”
In closing, I want to express gratitude for one of my teachers, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, on the occasion of his 29th yahrzeit. He was a source of inspiration for thousands of countless individuals and continues to be through his music and messages of love.
Am Yisrael Chai
“Am Yisrael Chai” is a powerful anthem that resonates with the heart and soul of the Jewish people. In a world filled with divisions, differing viewpoints, and conflicting morals, it is crucial to focus on what truly matters in life. We must recognize that nobody is perfect, and even in recent years, Israel has grappled with internal divisions and struggles, including the battle between Judaism and democracy, along with issues of hatred and spitefulness.
Am Yisrael Chai with solders in 1973
However, amid these challenges, we have come to realize that we have even greater concerns to address. In times of simchas and sorrow, we come together to sing the timeless words of “Am Yisrael Chai, Od Avinu Chai” a song with deep significance. These words, set to a tune composed by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, were originally meant as a rallying cry for the return of Russian Jews. Over time, it has evolved into a rallying anthem for the Jewish people in Israel.
Let us express gratitude, first and foremost, to Reb Shlomo for his remarkable contribution to keeping Judaism alive, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust. It’s worth noting that he is many years after his death is facing criticism for allegations of sexual harassment, and while we can’t just disregard these claims, we must remember that everyone makes mistakes. This stain on his reputation should not overshadow the immense impact he had on countless people, including many hundreds or thousands of women who were and are his ardent supporters. His stories, songs, and influence have left an indelible mark on Jewish and Israeli society.
Reb Shlomo’s impact on prayer services, weddings, and various Jewish rituals is immeasurable. His tunes and melodies have become an integral part of these sacred moments. He left a legacy that extends to the Kabbalat Shabbat service, Hallel service, and beyond. His influence can be heard in the joyful songs and dances at weddings. His music brings people together in celebration and worship.
One of Rav Shlomo’s famous sayings is that we have only one heart, and therefore, we must use it for love rather than hate. This message forms the core of his teachings. One of his many songs encourages unity among brothers. He tirelessly worked to create universal love among Jews and with nations worldwide. His outreach extended to Poland and Germany, spreading love, understanding, and peace.
Yet, his love for Israel, God, and the Torah was undeniable. He emphasized the importance of Jewish tradition and the role of joy in Judaism. His teachings have revived interest in figures like Rav Kook, Rabbi Nachman, and other Chassidic masters who contributed to the spiritual depth of Judaism.
Within his strong particularism lay a message of support for Israel and a definition of the world’s relationship with the Jewish people. After the 1973 war, he delivered a powerful message, emphasizing the enduring strength of the Jewish people. This message, a testament to his unwavering support for Israel, is a reminder of the unity that should characterize the Jewish community.
“For 2,000 years, the world thinks the Jews are there to be slaughtered. And I mean, you and I know the truth. It’s not a question of the Palestinians, it’s not a question of… It’s simply a question of… The question is killing Jews or not. But that’s all there is to it. And the time has come that we Jews are not there to be killed. And it’s heartbreaking, you know, that in a so-called civilized world, the world still is so barbaric. Absolutely barbaric. You see, if you were to ask me, if you were to ask me who is right in this war, you know, I think you’re very subjectively speaking. Imagine I’m falling down from Mars, coming down. I would interview both sides. I would ask the Egyptians, what do you want to do? All the Arabs. I’ll say, do you want to kill the Jews? I’d ask the Jews what do you want to do? Every soldier will say, I want peace. And I’ll tell you something very strong, you know. Last week, I went to San Francisco, and I played at a big rally for Israel, where thousands of Jewish students, non-Jewish students, Japanese students, all kinds, those who have a little bit of soul. And on the other side, the Arabs, you know, whenever the Jews made it to the rally, they have to come there also. So we had just a flag, a Israeli flag, and we were just… And I was singing and talking to the people and saying, really, all we want is peace in the world, you know. Not only peace for us, but peace for the whole world. And the Arabs had a big flag, and it said, death to the Jews, death to Zionism, death to Israel. There’s a long list who they want to kill. And, you know, it was just… I really felt so deep the difference that we don’t want to kill anybody. Thank you.”
This video is an important message as elaborates on two truths;
1. Eternal Jew Hatred and their desire to kill us.
2. Our Desire for Peace
And Reb Shlomo was clear here. We need to recognise this Hate while making it clear the land of Israel is ours. He says that the Arabs have so much land, yet they want it all, our little piece of land.
Here is Reb Shlomo in his own words.
“How would the world look like in 100 years from now, if us Yidden, after Auschwitz, after Majdanek, we built a little land, and then the world has the chutzpah to take half of it away again? What a chutzpah! What a chutzpah! What a chutzpah! Outrageous! Our cousins have millions of miles, empty, nothing. We have a little land, we built it, with tears, with blood, with prayers. What is taking away from us? What are you going to do with it? And since my concert is over, I can say what I want to. I want you to know, friends, I was one of the first people who walked into the old city. Sixty-seven. And there was so much love in the air, if the politicians wouldn’t have mingled in, we could have mumush made peace on that very day. But I want you to know, I talked to, I kissed every Arab, every boy, every girl I was thinking about. One little Arab cousin ran after me and said, you forgot to kiss one of my babies. Anyway, I see a little girl of sixteen standing in a corner like, I asked her, how do you feel? Let me ask you, talk to me the truth. Are you glad Israel took over the old city, or are you sad? She looked around. She said, you know something? Israel saved my life. Because my father sold me to an old man of eighty, four hundred dollars. Do you know what’s going on in the world, friends? Do you know what’s really going on? We don’t need to learn civilization from the rest of the world.”
“There’s still a little bit of the smoke of Auschwitz sometimes. Especially in the Holy Land, friends. There are some people who would like to blow the gas of Auschwitz towards the Holy Land. Don’t kid yourself. We have to be strong, strong in our feet. Friends, I want you to yell, Am Yisrael Chai. Israel is living. The land is living. The land is our land. Jerusalem is our city. I want you to know, beautiful friends, that I’m not talking about political things I’m talking about. The Jews should know where it’s at. I want you to know when God gave the land to Abraham, when God says to Abraham, walk around in the land, this is the land I’m giving you. It is our land. It is our land. Hashem, it is our land. Do you know every inch of the land is full of blood of our holy soldiers. They gave their lives and we should spit at them and just say, oh, I’ll trade it in for a few million rubles. Brother Clinton will give us, no, 100% not. Friends, I want us to stand on our feet and yell, Am Yisrael Chai. Israel is living forever. The land is ours forever. It is the land of our children, of our grandchildren. And nobody can take it away from us. And nobody can take it away from us. And nobody can take it away from us.”
As we commemorate the 29th yahrzeit of Rav Shlomo Carlebach, Due to the ongoing war and Kidnappings, there may be changes in the way we gather and celebrate his legacy this year. In these times, it’s essential to set aside our differences, acknowledging both our flaws, as well as those of our country. Let us come together and sing “Am Yisrael Chai” as a powerful reminder of the enduring spirit of the Jewish people.
Haftorah Lech Lecha
This week’s Haftorah continues the theme of Hashem’s manifest presence within nature and our selection as the Chosen People. The opening verses, taken from the end of Yishaya Chap. 40, directly attribute strength and success to belief in Hashem. “But those who put their hope in Hashem shall renew their vigor…they shall run and not weary….” (40:31)
Hashem’s eternity in relation to all generations is established, “…I am first, and with the last ones I am He.” (41:4) and it therefore makes sense to trust Hashem. This realization mirrors Avraham’s quest for understanding. Natures inherent consistency and order revealed itself to Avraham as absolute proof of a Creator who cares for His creations. “…he says of the cement, “It is good,” and he strengthened it with nails that it should not move.” (41:7)
With the conviction of certainty and truth, Avraham embraces G-d as a true servant. Hashem, in return, bestows upon him the singular accolade as the one “who loved me”. In all of the Tanach, only Avraham is referred to in this manner. To love Hashem means to trust Hashem, and Avraham trusted Hashem more completely than anyone else. In merit for his devotion, Hashem promises to protect his children from the onslaught of the other nations.
As all things are put into perspective, we realize that our nation’s greatness and praise is but a reflection of Hashem’s greatness. (41:16)
Haftorah Summary © 2023 by Torah.org