Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
SDT "Leave your land, birthplace, father's house." Ramban explains that each "point of departure" was progressively more difficult for Avraham. Leaving one's land is difficult, even more so if he was born there. Leaving one's family is most difficult. Ramban says that the Torah is showing us the great extent of Avraham's love of G-d.
Someone raises a question on this Ramban. What was so difficult in Avraham's leaving the place where he was ridiculed, persecuted and thrown into a fiery furnace for his beliefs. Would he not have left joyfully? The question actually carries the answer. The Ramban was pointing out a significant aspect of human nature. No matter how bad conditions are, how much a person wants a better life, there still will always remain a sadness and regret for the "good old days" and “the old country” - even when they weren't so good. This aspect of human nature explains a lot of Jewish History.
G-d promises that a great nation will descend from him (Avraham) and that he will be a blessing for all (his descendants and all the world).
SDT Avra(ha)m is promised great rewards and benefits for listening to G-d. Yet pasuk 4 states that he went "as G-d had spoken to him". His "aliya" is considered a test of his faith. He passed this test because he came to the Land because G-d asked him to, not for any material promises.
The call to the Jew to come on Aliya continues. THE only real "right" reason to come is because it is a mitzva and this is what G-d wants of us. All blessings that will follow are fringe benefits. And the difficulties one might encounter are parts of the test of our faith. Avraham Avinu led the way when there were no Aliya Shlichim and no Nefesh b’Nefesh to facilitate Aliya and K’lita. Actually, there was One Shaliach Aliya and One supporter, and He is still in that role.
Avra(ha)m was 75 years old at the time he came to Eretz Yisrael with Sarai, nephew Lot and many people who were brought over to monotheism by Avra(ha)m and Sarai.
[P> 12:10 (29)] Driven from the Land by a famine, Avraham and Sara go down to Egypt. Their plan is to say that they are brother and sister, rather than risk Avraham's being killed.
SDT Ramban states that "Avra(ha)m sinned a great sin (inadvertently)" by leaving the land to which G-d had sent him (even though it was due to the famine) and by risking Sarai's life and honor by asking her to say that she was his sister. Ramban also says that as "punishment" for going down into Egypt, Avraham's descendants were destined to go down into Egypt. On the other hand... Other sources teach us that we derive halachic permission to leave Eretz Yisrael in the event of severe famine BECAUSE that's what Avraham Avinu did. And - still on the other hand - we learn that a person can risk his life to save another from Sarah Imeinu saying that she was Avraham's sister thereby risking herself to save Avraham.
Furthermore (still on the same other hand), Pirkei Avot testifies that Avraham Avinu "passed" all his "tests of faith". Being driven out of Eretz Yisrael by the famine and having to subject Sarai to the perils of Paro's Palace are both counted (by some) among the Ten Tests of Faith.
A possible answer might be that how a person behaves in a difficult situation is one thing, and how the situation affects his faith in G-d is another thing. G-d sends someone to a new land, and then hits him with a famine. Regardless of how that someone handles the situation, he might be disillusioned, to say the least. That would mean failing a test of faith. That didn't happen to Avraham. His faith was as strong as ever. Ramban thinks that he erred in judgment as to what he should do. Avraham chose the self-help, HISHTADLUS option. His choice was "approved of" by the subsequent halachic ruling. Maybe he should have chosen the stay-put and trust in G-d option. Ramban thinks he should have. An inadvertent sin, says the Ramban. But no deterioration of Avraham's faith.
Avra(ha)m and company, heavily laden with riches, return to Eretz Yisrael via the Negev. Avra(ha)m returns to the Altar he had built and continues to proclaim G-d's Name.
SDT Avraham on the run from his home- town, a stranger in a strange land, has its challenges and tests. Avraham loaded with wealth and prominence, has new challenges and tests. Poverty and famine are tests; so is wealth. And it is hard to know which is harder. In the opening passage of Rosh Chodesh Benching, we ask G-d for many things — long life, a life of peace, blessings, etc. There is one thing we ask for twice - Yir'at Shamayim, fear of G-d. Why? Because after asking for it the first time, we ask for a life of wealth and honor. If we are blessed with that, then we must humbly ask for Yir'at Shamayim again, because wealth sometimes blinds a person to his obligations to HaShem.
(This, too, is a recurring theme in Jewish life, containing warnings for us all - sadly, many Jews moved away from Jewish neighborhoods to places with country clubs, golf courses, and other "important" things.)
Only after Avra(ha)m is rid of Lot, does G-d once again appear to him, encouraging him to look over the whole land to the north, south, east, and west, which will some day belong to his descendants. G-d also tells him that his descendants will be too numerous to count. (Hidden message: They will sometimes be lowly, like the dust of the ground, trodden underfoot by our enemies.)
Avra(ha)m settles in Hevron and builds an altar to G-d.
R'vi'i - Fourth Aliya - 20 p'sukim - 14:1-20
The Gemara suggests that Avraham took only his servant Eliezer with him to rescue Lot. The numeric value of the name Eliezer = 318. As G'matriya go, this is one of many. What makes it unusual, is that it is based on a number in the text of the Torah.
Avra(ha)m launches a successful surprise attack and frees the people of S'dom. Victory is celebrated with a religious ceremony of thanking and blessing G-d in the presence of Malki-Tzedek (a.k.a. Shem b. Noach). A tithe of the spoils of war is given to this servant of G-d.
Rashi tells us that AMRAFEL, king of Shin-ar is none other than NIMROD who was the one who tossed Avraham into the fiery furnace for challenging polytheism in public and espousing belief in One G-d. Ironic, is it not, that Avraham has this opportunity to do battle against Nimrod.
Malki-tzedek is king of Shalem. Targum Onkeles identifies Shalem as Yerushalayim. Shalem is the part of the city’s name contributed by Sheim. Avraham gave it the first half of its name after the Akeida – YERU
Avra(ha)m did accept payment on behalf of his allies who helped him.
SDT From here we learn, says the Chafetz Chaim, that one wants to be "machmir" (strict), should accept the strict practice for himself but not impose it on others. Avraham did not want to be a TZADIK at the expense of others.
[S> 15:1 (21)] Afterwards, G-d appears to Avra(ha)m in a vision and again promises him great rewards for his faithfulness. Avra(ha)m, still childless expresses his disappointment, but resignation, that Eliezer will be his heir. G-d assures Avra(ha)m that he will indeed have his own child to follow in his footsteps.
G-d then takes Avra(ha)m outdoors and promises him that his descendants will be as countless (and exalted) as the stars in the heavens.
The GR"A cites the Talmud's mentioning that Avraham Avinu was the first person to address G-d as "Adon" (Master). We acknowledge this by beginning Shacharit - Avraham's davening - with the poem Adon Olam. Furthermore, the reference to a thread and shoe strap is linked the mitzvot of Talit and T’filin, both of which are also associated with Shacharit.
Being compared to dust and sand and to the stars of the heavens is not just a matter of numerousness, but also to the quality of life. The terms reflect the ups & downs of Jewish History.
Both Rashi and Onkeles understand the term M’SHULASH/M’SHULESHET to mean that Avraham took three each of calves, goats, and sheep for the BRIT BEIN HA-B’TARIM. Tos’fot and others define the term as “prime, of the best quality”. They hold that there was only one each of the animals. Others say the animals were to be third-born or three years old or part of a triplet. (from The Living Torah by R’ Aryeh Kaplan z”l)
[S> 16:1 (16)] Sarai, being barren, gives her hand-maiden Hagar to Avra(ha)m to bear him a child. When Hagar becomes pregnant, she taunts her mistress. Hagar then flees from Sarai's retaliation. An angel finds her, promises that her child, too, will sire a countless multitude, that her son to be born shall be called Yishmael, and that she is now to return to Sarai.
Yishmael is born when Avra(ha)m is 86 years of age.
[S> 17:1 (14)] When Avra(ha)m is 99, G-d appears to him and asks him to "be complete". G-d changes Avra(ha)m's name to Avraham, symbolizing Avraham's role as father and spiritual guide to great nations. Once again Avraham is promised "countless" progeny.
The mitzva is ideally performed on the 8th day, counting the day on which the baby was born - even if he was born 5 minutes before sunset. Mila may not take place at night. Only an 8th day Mila (as opposed to a Brit that was postponed because of health reasons, for example) can be done on Shabbat. A baby delivered by C-section on Shabbat, will have his Brit on the following Sunday (the baby's 9th day). Due to a technicality based on the analysis of the text in Tazria, only a Brit of a natural birth can take place on Shabbat.
The mitzva of Mila is "repeated" in parshat Tazria. Its specific wording there, teaches us some details.
With the two texts dealing with BRIT, it is noteworthy that
most mitzva- counters count MILA from LECH L'CHA rather than TAZRI'A. Lech
L'cha's con- text is the story of Avraham Avinu. In Tazri'a we have a
straightforward command — Speak to the people of Israel and say to them...
on the 8th day, you SHALL circumcise...
[S> 17:15 (13)] G-d then changes Sarai's name to Sarah. Name changes represent changes in character, role, and destiny. G-d promises that Sarah will bear the true heir of Avraham. Avraham laughs with joy upon hearing that he will be a father at 100, and Sarah a mother at 90. He thought that Yishmael was the son that G-d had repeatedly promised him, but G-d assures him that it will be Yitzchak who will fill that role.
Yishmael will also be blessed and give rise to great nations, but the Covenant will be passed down through Yitzchak.
Avraham circumcises himself at age 99, Yishmael at age 13, and the other male members of his household, in fulfillment of G-d's command.
The last four p'sukim of the sedra are reread for the Maftir.
We can see in the sedra-haftara pair a manifestation of MAASEI AVOT SIMAN L'BANIM, the deeds of the ancestors set the patterns for the their descendants.