In enumerating those who accompanied Avram on his journey from Charan, the Torah mentions that he took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, the property that they acquired, and “the souls they made in Charan” (Bereshis 12:5). Chazal say that “the souls made in Charan” were individuals that Avram “brought under the Wings of the Shechinah.” In other words, these were people whom he introduced to monotheism, and whom he influenced to reject Avodah Zarah.
In the beginning of the Rambam’s Hilchos Avodah Zarah, he describes the development of the theology of Avodah Zarah in the world, and how Avraham Avinu was the first iconoclast. Avram influenced the inhabitants of Charan and had many followers who accompanied him when he left on his journey to Eretz Yisrael.
Rav Shlomo Glasner, a grandson of the Chasam Sofer, notes that Avram was not originally from Charan. Avram originally grew up in Ur Kasdim. The Medrash describes how Avram began his lifelong battle against Avodah Zarah in Ur Kasdim. He was challenged by Nimrod, the ruling power, who worshipped the god of fire. Nimrod threw Avram into a fiery pit to “see if your G-d can save you from the power of my god.” The Medrash says that Avram was miraculously saved from the fiery furnace. Some Rishonim count this challenge as the first of the ten challenges that Avraham Avinu endured (per Avos 5:3).
The question must be asked, why was Avram apparently only successful in bringing people “under the Wings of the Shechina” in Charan? What happened in Ur Kasdim? Why was he not successful in drawing people to the concept of monotheism in his home town of Ur Kasdim? We would imagine that after having witnessed Avram miraculously escape from Nimrod’s attempt to kill him, the people in Ur Kasdim would have certainly been ready to listen to Avram’s message of One G-d and follow him! And yet, it appears that Avram only succeeded in his ‘kiruv‘ efforts in Charan. Why was that?
Rav Shlomo Glasner gives an interesting answer. Imagine the scene: All the town people were gathered. Nimrod challenged Avram. The people are sitting in the bleachers watching. Avram jumps into the fiery furnace and emerges unscathed. One fellow says to the person next to him, “Look at that! That is amazing. This person must have a real G-d!” The person next to him says “Wait a minute. Not so quick. If this Avram fellow is for real, then why is his father still in the Avodah Zarah business?” If Avram had a true religion, wouldn’t he first have an effect on his own family members? And yet, his father rejected it. People murmured, “There must be something fishy here.” Avram must have worn a fire-retardant suit or something. Therefore, Avram did not have the same effect “at home” in Ur Kasdim that he later had in Charan, because there were sceptics in Ur Kasdim who tried to debunk the miracle, based on the fact that Avram’s immediate family appeared unimpressed.
A Kri U’Kesiv Teaches Avram’s Sensitivity to His Wife’s Privacy
“From there he relocated to the mountain east of Beth-el and pitched his tent (va’yet ahalo)…” (Bereshis 12:8). The word ‘ahalo‘ in the expression “He pitched his tent (ahalo)” is spelled aleph hay lamed hay. Thus, the kesiv (the way it is written) is actually “her tent” rather than the k’ri (the way it is read) which is “his tent.” Rashi comments on this, saying that Avram first pitched his wife’s tent, and only afterwards pitched his own tent.
Why did he do that? The Levush Ha’Orah, one of Rashi’s super-commentaries, explains that Avram did this to protect the tznius of Sora. She should have a tent to move into immediately, and not need to wait out in the open while he first pitched his tent. One of the outstanding character traits of Sora was her modesty. Chazal say that Avram didn’t even know what she looked like until they arrived in Mitzrayim. Her privacy and comfort drove Avram to prioritize the setting up of her living quarters above setting up his own tent.
How long does it take to pitch a tent? We are not talking about hours or days! And yet, the Levush HaOrah explains that this is what Rashi is saying. The sensitivity of Avram for his wife’s privacy was such that by employing this kri u’ksiv, the pasuk is alluding to the fact that he pitched her tent before his tent.
Every year, we mention that Sefer Bereshis is about the maxim Ma’aseh Avos siman l’Banim (the actions of the forefathers foreshadow the actions of the children). This lesson is also Ma’aseh Avos siman l’Banim. A Jewish husband must be sensitive to the feelings and sensitivities of his wife.
This dovetails with a Gemara in Bava Metzia 59a. Rav Chelbo says that a person must always be careful about the honor of his wife because blessing resides in a person’s home only by virtue of his wife. He brings another pasuk as a proof from this week’s parsha: “And Avram benefited because of her” (Bereshis 12:16). This means that a person’s honoring his wife is a segulah for parnassah. That is what the Gemara says!
This is ironic because everybody under the sun wants a “segulah for parnassah“. The Gemara gives an explicit segulah for parnassah—a person should honor his wife! Come and see how particular Avram was for the honor of Sora—he pitched her tent first so she did not need to stand there for an extra ten minutes out in the open.
I saw an interesting observation in the sefer Darash Mordechai from Rav Mordechai Druk: Why is a person’s honoring his wife a segulah for parnassah? How does that work? He explains that when Chava ate from the Etz HaDaas (Tree of Knowledge) and then gave it to Adam, they were both cursed. Her curse was that “…your desire shall be to your husband and he shall rule over you” (Bereshis 3:16). Her honor was thus impacted because her husband would now dominate her. So, if a person honors his wife and tries to lighten that curse then, measure for measure, his own curse will be lessened. What is the curse that Adam received? “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread…” (Bereshis 3:19) In other words, you need to shvitz for parnassah. If a man honors his wife and makes her curse lighter, his own curse will be lightened, and his livelihood will come easier.
Better To Be “Too Wicked” Than To Be “Too Righteous”
The pasuk states, “There was a quarrel between the shepherds of the flocks of Avram and the shepherds of the flocks of Lot, and the Canani and the Perizi then dwelt in the land.” (Bereshis 13:7). A fight broke out between the respective herdsmen of Avram and Lot. Lot’s shepherds let their livestock graze on property that was not theirs, basically stealing from the owners of those properties. Avram instructed his shepherds to muzzle the cattle when they are on land that belonged to other people so they would not graze where they were not allowed to graze.
Avram tells Lot, “Lot, I love you like a nephew, but it is time for us to part ways. You go whichever way you want to go, but we cannot live together anymore.” That is what happens. Lot journeys on to Sodom.
The question must be asked: Avram had influence over thousands of people. Why can’t he sit down with his own flesh and blood and reason with him? Why can’t he influence Lot to instruct his shepherds not to steal other people’s crops?
The answer is that Lot felt that he had a legal right to graze his cattle wherever he wanted! The pasuk emphasizes, “The Canani and the Perizi then dwelt in the land.” Lot reasoned that Avram was destined to inherit all the Land of Canaan. Based on G-d’s Promise, it really belonged to Avram. Avram was an elderly man who did not have children. Who would inherit the land from him? It would be his next of kin, namely, Lot himself. By this convoluted logic, Lot felt that he was merely taking what was soon going to be his anyhow. That is why he felt that there was no theft involved, and he could not be convinced otherwise.
It is possible to have influence over people when they know they are wrong. But if people believe they are right, talking to them from today until tomorrow is not going to help! Rav Ruderman, zt”l, used to say: It says in Koheles “Don’t be too much of a Tzadik… Don’t be too much of a Rasha.” (Koheles 7:16-17). Rav Ruderman used to ask, “Which is worse?” He would answer, it is better to be too much of a Rasha than too much of a Tzadik. When a person is wicked, he knows that he is wicked, and he knows that he needs to change. But a person who views himself as a Tzadik never considers the possibility that he might be wrong and that he, too, might need to change. It is impossible to talk to such people. A classic example was Lot. He felt that “al pi din” (by legal right) he was permitted to graze his cattle on other people’s land. So there was no way he could be talked out of it.
Avram realized this. Therefore, he bid his nephew farewell and said, “Lot you go your way and I will go my way.”
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Lech Lecha is provided below:
- # 028 – Conversion (Geirus)
- # 070 – Bris Milah: The Metzizah Controversy
- # 119 – Conversion for Ulterior Motives
- # 166 – The Childless Couple in Halacha
- # 212 – Non-Jews and the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av
- # 256 – Mohel and Baby: Who Goes to Whom
- # 302 – The Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel
- # 346 – Trading Terrorists for Hostages
- # 390 – Geirus — Mitzvah, Reshus, or Issur?
- # 434 – Anesthesia During Milah
- # 478 – Sandik — Can You Change Your Mind?
- # 522 – Calling Avraham, Avrum
- # 566 – Learning Vs. Saving A Life
- # 610 – The Widow & the Divorcee: How Long Must they wait to remarry
- # 654 – Sonei Matonos Yichye – Refusing Gifts
- # 698 – Did the Avos Keep the Torah?
- # 742 – Can You Change Your Mazel?
- # 786 – The On-Time vs. the Delayed Bris
- # 830 – Standing for A Chosen and Kallah At The Chupah
- # 874 – Saving Some-One’s Soul- How Far Must You Go?
- # 918 – Hidur Mitzvah – How Important?
- # 961 – Tying Shoes – Not As Simple As You Think
- #1005 – Inviting People to a Bris – Good Idea or Bad?
- #1049 – Honoring Your Wife
- #1092 – The Baal Teshuva Who Wants To Convert His Non-Jewish Girlfriend
- #1135 – “Schar Pe’sios” – Should You Walk Or Drive To Shul (on weekdays)
- #1178 – Shabbos Milah of A Child Whose Parents Are Not Shomrei Shabbos
- #1222 – Milah For The Son of a Jewish Father and a Non Jewish Mother
- #1266 – The Syrian Sefardic Community’s Ban on Conversion
- #1310 – Giving Gifts to Non-Jews
- #1354 – Should I Stay in the US to Take Care of My Parents or Make Aliya to Eretz Yisroel?
- #1398 – Meshaneh Makom Meshaneh Mazel – Changing Your Mazel
- #1442 – The Importance of Always Staying With The Same Host
- #1486 – Quantity vs. Quality What Wins?
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