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10 Cheshvan 5764 - November 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Lech Lecho -- The Ongoing Command for the Eternal Jew

by Yisroel Spiegel

"And Hashem said to Avrom: Lech lecho, go, you, from your land and from your birthplace and from the house of your father to the land that I will show you" (Bereishis 12:1). Rashi: "He did not reveal the land to him immediately."

One thousand questions would not suffice to describe the bafflement of a person who is suddenly commanded to rise up and leave his land, birthplace and his father's house. And furthermore, he is not even told his destination, only: "To the land that I will show you."

What is the significance of leaving one's homeland, birthplace and father's house? Certainly, these are the most precious things a person has! How can someone simply pick himself up and abandon everything, moreover -- to go to an unknown destination, a place he knows nothing about!

The primordial Jewish answer to all these questions is: "And Avrom went as Hashem had spoken to him." This is and has been the Jew throughout all generations. He treads the special, unique path of "What Hashem had spoken to him." When he rises in the morning, when he commences his new week, when he begins the new month and goes on to the ensuing month. No questions are posed as to how he will pass the day, survive the month, endure the new year and carry on with the continuation of his life's journey. For the eternal answer is: "Just as Hashem spoke to him."

This perennial Jew draws his strength from the first patriarch, Avrohom Ovinu, the entire course of whose path is stamped with this same manner of accepting Hashem's command without question or hesitation. And for this perseverance he merits the everlasting praise of "And Avrom went . . . "

For four thousand years he is still treading this well-worn course, the track upon which there is no halting from fulfilling the will of Hashem, even if riches beckon from a side path, or thousands of questions crop up as to "What will be?" and "How will I manage?" This is the attitude of a man of faith, the attribute that established Avrohom as a Patriarch and which he bequeathed to his progeny in their very genes.

"And he believed in Hashem . . . " This faith is the great secret, the key to the astounding survival of the miraculous Jew who endures despite all odds, survives the vicissitudes of time which have felled nations far mightier than his. We, the descendants of Avrohom, persist and persevere and endure, for we place our trust in Hashem and fear not, come what may.


In a pragmatic view, the progress of the Jew throughout the ages resembles that of one walking headlong into a wall and bashing his head upon it. It is unreal, illogical to conduct one's life in this manner, without a precise plan of how one will establish a home, raise a family, earn a livelihood, marry off children and so on. People are accustomed to planning for the future, ascertaining their financial and material security. People plan the size of their family and send their children to schools that will provide them with a profession to set them up financially, in turn, as they did themselves.

Throughout the ages, the Jew has remained loyal to the command of "Go, you . . . " where the future is uncertain, unpredictable, just as it was by Avrohom Ovinu. Go -- and you will find out what lies in store, all in good time. And when you reach old age and reminisce on the past, you will often be amazed at yourself and declare, "Indeed? How was I able to surmount all this? How was I able to support a family of ten- twelve children? How was I able to marry them off and enable them to establish their own homes? How are they able to support their children?"

And the process of lech lecho is repeated time and again. Rise up and do what you were commanded and ask no questions. If you begin asking, mountains of answers will never satisfy you.

Each of us, more so the older we grow, can enumerate countless examples of the success of those who plodded blindly onward, raising no questions, no doubts -- and conversely, the dashed hopes of those who realistically drew up road maps and asked relevant questions. But how can one possibly take all factors into account and plan for all contingencies? Those who pursued Avrohom's path, with the full faith that they were fulfilling Hashem's will, continued forward, fearlessly, and persevered, while those who stopped to ask even the most logical questions saw no blessing in their endeavors.


This is reality Jewish-style, as opposed to the earthly- worldly reality which, sadly, many of our own brethren mistakenly embrace. And from this fact stems the difficult problems which our people face in this generation, just as they faced the previous generations where segments of the Jewish nation were trapped into the whirlpool of asking questions instead of exercising their trust. Of those askers - - no remnant remains.

Periodically, the dire statistics of American Jewry are brought to the fore, with the even grimmer prognosis for its future. According to figures, some half a million Jews have disappeared.

The reasons for this, enumerated in the study, include a later marriage age to the mid-thirties. Why are people waiting to get married? So that they can establish themselves financially, complete their `education' and acquire several academic degrees. And then, they `plan' their families to fit their comfortable means and in the end, the population growth is negative, not even reproducing itself in the next generation! This is a product of asking, "But what shall we eat?"

Those who prepared this study ignored, forgot or studiously avoided one very positive and major factor. If the statistics are not quite as dire as they may have predicted, it is because the Orthodox segment of the Jewish population enjoys a very high rate of growth. Young families are being formed whose reality is not based on material grossness. They have embraced the strengths of their ancestor, of Avrohom, who proceeded "As Hashem commanded him."

Poverty does exist there, and a great number of chesed organizations are needed to help them, but these groups exist and function admirably to uphold this world. And in those blessed families, sons stream to the yeshivos, daughters study in Bais Yaakov schools and these families persistently defy the doomsayers by living a life of full faith.


On the eighth day of a baby's existence in this world, the question can already arise: How can we persevere in the directive demanded of Avrohom, "Walk before Me and be perfect"? For this incorporates the commandment of circumcision, "And now, heed My covenant . . . circumcise your every male . . . On the eighth day shall you circumcise every male unto your generations" (Bereishis 17:9,10).

"In his responsa (Yoreh Dei'oh, siman 245), the Chasam Sofer wrote that medically speaking, it stands to reason that circumcision on the eighth day of a child's life is a dangerous thing. But Hashem's surveillant eye is cast over those who heed His covenant, to preserve their souls. Thousands upon tens of thousands perform the circumcision and come to no harm since they are protected by Heaven, by a Power surpassing nature, since this holy nation is prepared to sacrifice itself to a degree beyond the natural" (Minchas Osher, Bereishis by HaRav Osher Weiss, p. 508).

Circumcision is a mitzvah for which Jews have always risked their very lives. They practiced it under the harshest circumstances one could possibly imagine -- or not even imagine! Countless stories are told of miracles throughout the generations, including this very one.

Miracle stories abound of men and women who truly sacrificed their lives to fulfill this mitzvah in ghettos and concentration camps. No less apparent is the eternal quality of the Jew evidenced through the tens of thousands of Jews who hastened to circumcise themselves, even at an advanced age in life, as soon as the Iron Curtain was raised.

All this strength, endurance and devotion are an inheritance from Avrohom Ovinu, the tradition of "Lech lecho." Without reckoning, hesitation, questions posed -- be they the most pragmatic and logical ones, but following a blind, stubborn faith. Jews have proceeded to an unknown destination under all conditions and circumstances, propelled purely by the faith coursing in their veins, their devotion and determination to fulfill the word of Hashem, as He testified to Avrohom, "For I know him, that he does command his sons and his household after him to heed the way of Hashem," (Bereishis 18:19).

All those questions of "What will be?" arise when one is distracted from or forgets the marvelous message of our parsha where our first Patriarch was commanded to sever himself from all he had and to go forth into the unknown. Hashem purposely did not reveal to him where he was going. But Avrohom asks no questions. "And Avrohom went as Hashem had spoken to him."

All the problems and difficulties that arose in these recent generations are a result of movements that boasted of finding an `independent way' to inherit or take possession of the Holy Land, of how to deal with the difficult problem of its Arab inhabitants. When Avrohom came to the land, Hashem said to him, "Lift up your eyes and behold . . . For all of this land which you see, to you shall I give it and to your seed forever after" (Bereishis 13:14,15).

The Meshech Chochmoh comments on this: "Eretz Yisroel is sanctified beyond all other lands; it is under the personal surveillance of Hashem, and even at such times that it is under the rule of foreign powers, it still maintains its sanctity. And thus it was during the days of Avrohom, to whom Hashem gave the land even though the Canaanite was then inhabiting it. Therefore He said: Even though on earth you are unable to see any measure of having received this land, therefore raise your eyes upward and behold a spiritual Divine Providence and surveillance. See that I am giving you the entire land. And it shall be sanctified in the holiness that befits you and your sons."

Only when they insisted on not lifting their eyes heavenward and refused to see the spiritual Providence did the doubts begin to creep in, and from here developed all the doubts and uncertainties which assail the descendants of the founding Zionists. They see difficulties; they see how their fathers erred in their analysis of the situation. In truth we can only rely upon Divine Providence, while shunning the path of "our might and the strength of our hands" and the credo of "We shall take our future into our hands."

This approach has caused the deep schism in our people. For they persist in talking the language of power, and their followers are trapped in the web of heresy and moral weakness. Many of their ranks openly declare that they are prepared to leave the country out of lack of faith that Hashem bequeaths lands and that only He shall bequeath this very land to us in the future, at the proper propitious time according to His design.

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