And Avram traversed The Land until the place of Schem until Elon
Moreh and the Canaanites were then in The Land! And HASHEM appeared to
Avram, and He said, “To your seed I will give This Land!” And he built an
altar to HASHEM Who had appeared to him. (Breishis 12:6-7)
Why did Avram build an altar to HASHEM then at that time? The Midrash says,
“We learn from here that it is a requirement for a person to bring an
offering to HASHEM upon hearing good news.” Avram was the recipient of two
important and deeply gratifying pieces of information. 1) He will have
children and 2) his children will inherit The Land. So immediately Avram
made a public proclamation of thanks.
There are a few curious points to ponder about this account. In the words
just prior to the promise of The Land, the verse spells out that “the
Canaanites were then in The Land”. Are these not the same gigantic people
that seemed so intimidatingly large to the spies and the Nation of Israel
when they were on the cusp of entering The Land? So sizable was their
appearance that an entire nation was scared to confront them.
Here we have one man and his childless - barren wife and their loyal
entourage. The Midrash also tells us the Canaanites looked at Avram with
derision as if he was a “crazy old man”. To the fleshy eye it must have
looked like a great impossibility.
A normal person would have every right to break out into uproarious
laughter, like if I took my son to the observatory tower of the Empire State
Building and while surveying the grandness of the city, I declared, “Boy,
someday this will all be yours!” I’m likely to get a look that says, “Yeah
What’s Avram’s reaction? He makes a Kiddush! This opens the window into the
mind of Avram Avinu, our great father and how he perceived the world around him.
Rabbi Yosef Kehanaman, ztl. the Ponevitcher Rebbe was somehow spared and he
miraculously made his way to Eretz Yisrael in the middle of the Holocaust.
Only later did he learn of the tragic fate that had befallen his wife,
eleven children and his entire town including the Yeshiva at the hands of
the Nazis. Old and not quite broken he settled in Bnei Brak and still during
the war years he was frequently seen surveying by day and even at night with
a candle what was then a sand dune at the highest point of the “city”. He
was asked by people who observed his behavior, “What are you doing?” He
would say, “Here I am building the world’s largest Yeshiva. Over here will
be the study hall. Here will be the dorm and here the dining room…”
The responses were less than encouraging. He was told, “Are you crazy?
Rommel is on the border of Israel and is about to do here what what’s been
done in Europe. Torah is a thing of the past. We have no bread to eat and
you talk of building a Yeshiva! You must be crazy!” His is reported to have
answered, “You’re right I am crazy! Now if I went running through the
streets of Tel Aviv breaking windows, you would excuse me- ‘the unfortunate
man he went mad from tzuras-suffering!’ The truth is I am mad! However my
mishigas -insanity is not to break windows but to put windows in!”
Visit Bnei Brak today! It’s a bustling Torah Metropolis. Climb to the
highest point and there is a Yeshiva. Enter and you will see a sea of white
shirts and shtenders rocking back and forth and you’ll be overwhelmed by the
roar of a thousand young men learning Torah, just as the Rebbe had said.
One gets an eerie feeling that although Avraham never saw the hill tops of
Jerusalem filled with Jewish families observing Shabbos and even though when
he left this world he only had the one son Yitzchok (to whom “the blessings”
applied) and two Bar Mitzva age grandchildren, his heart was brimming with
Divine promises. He envisioned them with detail and clearly- as real- in the
realm of the mind’s eye.