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Parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

“And because he put his trust in the Lord, he reckoned it to his merit.” (Genesis 15:6)

If someone told you he had packed up his life and moved halfway across the world because he heard a voice say so, you’d probably think he was nuts.   On the other hand, you might think nothing of driving for hours in foreign territory, turning right and left, “in 300 feet,” because a voice tells you to.  Using a GPS may not be a religious act, but it does require faith.  Nowadays, it seems people have more faith in technology than in God.

Parashat Lekh Lekha introduces Abram (who later becomes Abraham) and begins the saga of the first Jewish families.  A famine drives Abram and his wife, Sarai, down to Egypt, where they encounter the Pharoah.   Unaware they are married, Pharoah desires Sarai.  Afflicted with plagues as a result, Pharoah learns the truth and sends Abram and Sarai on their way (after loading them up with riches as a payoff).  This episode foreshadows what will happen to the Children of Israel at the end of Genesis.  It also highlights a critical aspect of our relationship with Egypt:  it is a place of both shelter and support (there is food there despite the famine) while also being a place of mortal danger.

Despite this episode, and despite the future slavery in Egypt, the Torah doesn’t teach hatred of Egypt.  Instead, it commands, “You shall not abhor the Egyptian, because you were a stranger in that land.” (Deut. 23:8)  Which returns us to the issue of faith.  Abram is characterized as a man of faith because regardless of his immediate circumstances, he had faith in the long view, in which God’s promises will be realized.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David

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