A responsible adult is needed

"Let there be no strife between you and me, for we are kinsmen"

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in our everyday life - Lech Lecha - 5781

The way Abraham handles the family conflict that developed with Lot is supposed to teach us a lesson for generations.

Abraham "adopted" Lot, his younger brother's son, and he accompanied him on his journey to the Land of Israel. Over the years, Abraham became kind of a 'mentor' to Lot; he accompanies, promotes, and develops him spiritually and business-wise. The results did not wait to come, Lot succeeded in his business, and Abraham was privileged to get Lot on his feet:

וְגַם־לְל֔וֹט הַהֹלֵ֖ךְ אֶת־אַבְרָ֑ם הָיָ֥ה צֹאן־וּבָקָ֖ר וְאֹהָלִֽים׃

"Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents" (Bereshit 13:5)

"his newfound wealth was due only to the fact that he was a fellow traveler of Abram" (Radak ibid).

But it is precisely when Lot begins to succeed in his business that tensions and disputes begin to form between him and Abraham, in the spiritual, ideological, and economic spheres:

וזה היה משני טעמים א] כי היה רכושם רב וצר להם המקום ב] ולא יכלו לשבת יחדו, כי לוט התחיל להתפרד מדעות אברהם וממנהגיו, וזה עורר שנאה ביניהם בלב

"The land was unable to support them. This was for two reasons: 1) There was insufficient room for their great wealth. 2) Lot had begun to deviate from Abraham’s ways, which is why they were unable to dwell together." (Malbim on Bereshit 13:6)

Lot had the impression that his further economic development may be harmed by the fact that he is with Abraham. From then on, the tension and controversy turn into a quarrel.

The family quarrel between them expands into more circles, as  a quarrel between the slaves as well:

וַֽיְהִי־רִ֗יב בֵּ֚ין רֹעֵ֣י מִקְנֵֽה־אַבְרָ֔ם וּבֵ֖ין רֹעֵ֣י מִקְנֵה־ל֑וֹט וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י אָ֖ז יֹשֵׁ֥ב בָּאָֽרֶץ׃

"And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and those of Lot’s cattle. The Canaanites and Perizzites were then dwelling in the land." (Bereshit 13: 7)

שכאשר חדלה האהבה בין האחים, עשה זה פרי בין עבדיהם

"when the love between the brothers ceased, it influenced also their servants" (Malbim there).

The situation deteriorated and became unbearable. As a result, the Canaanite also strengthens and takes over territories in the land.

For the side observer, there is no doubt as to Abraham's righteousness and Lot's unfairness and ingratitude, disregarding the fact that the property he acquired was:

בזכות אברהם, ובכ"ז לא שם זאת על לבו

"thanks to Abraham, and yet he did not put it on his heart" (Malbim ibid pasuk 5).

Abraham, however, does come to terms with it, he is not hurt, and does not rebuke or reproach Lot's conduct. He acts as a 'responsible adult', who takes responsibility for the situation, in order to prevent the conflict from escalating, even though he is not to blame and he is not the one who 'started' it.

Abraham seeks to reach an agreed solution out of his positive attitude.

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אַבְרָ֜ם אֶל־ל֗וֹט אַל־נָ֨א תְהִ֤י מְרִיבָה֙ בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֔יךָ וּבֵ֥ין רֹעַ֖י וּבֵ֣ין רֹעֶ֑יךָ כִּֽי־אֲנָשִׁ֥ים אַחִ֖ים אֲנָֽחְנוּ׃

"Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, between my herdsmen and yours, for we are kinsmen." (Bereshit 13:8)

As a 'responsible adult', he even generously suggests to Lot that he be given the right of way to choose the solution, of his own free will, according to his viability.

הִפָּ֥רֶד נָ֖א מֵעָלָ֑י אִם־הַשְּׂמֹ֣אל וְאֵימִ֔נָה וְאִם־הַיָּמִ֖ין וְאַשְׂמְאִֽילָה׃

"Let us separate: if you go north, I will go south; and if you go south, I will go north.” (ibid pasuk 9)

ועוד אני אומר לך כי נפשי רחבה וכל שכן לאחי אתן הבחירה. אם השמאל ואימנה, אם תרצה אתה ללכת לצפון הארץ אני אהיה לדרום הארץ

"He added, that seeing he was a generous person, all the more, so when the other person involved was his brother, he therefore offered the choice to Lot. What he meant was “if you will move north, I will be south of you, whereas if you move south, I will be north of you" (Radak ibid)

שנתן לו הברירה לאיזה צד הוא יפרד

He gave him the choice of which side he would part with (Haamek Davar ibid).

It might seem that Abraham and Lot decided on a breakup, that their paths are separated, and each is going his own way. But Abraham, as the 'responsible adult', promises that he will continue to take care of Lot's safety and security, even in his new place:

בְּכָל אֲשֶׁר תֵּשֵׁב, לֹא אֶתְרַחֵק מִמְּךָ וְאֶעֱמֹד לְךָ לְמָגֵן וּלְעֵזֶר

"Wherever you settle down I will not go far from you and I will stand by you as a shield and as a helper. " (Rashi ibid).

Even when Lot was captured in the War of the Four and Five kings, Abraham does not spite against him and as a 'responsible adult' he goes into military action to rescue him from captivity:

וְסוֹף דָּבָר הֻצְרַךְ לוֹ, שְׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו וְגוֹ.

"Ultimately, indeed, he (Lot) was really in need of him, as it is said, (Bereshit 14:14) “And Abram heard that his brother was taken captive etc.” (Rashi ibid)

ראה ענותנותו של אברהם אבינו, אחר כל המריבה שעשו עמו... לא זכר אברהם אבינו את המריבה

" Look, however, at the humility of our father Abraham after all the strife they had had with him… Our father Abraham did not remember the strife but called him his brother, as stated (in Ber. 13:8): For we are brothers". (Midrash Tanchuma Buber, Lech Lecha siman 16).

The people of Israel are in an ongoing ideological, political, and social controversy. Each side is sure of its righteousness, and it is certain that the other side is guilty and that 'they began'. It is clear to everyone that the problem needs to be resolved before it gets worse and out of control. For the time being, the leader has not been found, whose actions and utterances lower the flames, meanwhile they slap each other and kindle the fire. The people of Israel need desperately a 'responsible adult', not one who has no opinion, but one who in his wisdom will find a way to return the dispute to the level of an argument and not of a quarrel. A leader who will read: "Let there be no strife between you and me, for we are kinsmen."

Is it indeed the end of a naivety era?

The Parasha in the daily life - Parashat Lech Lecha - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780

In our Parasha, Abraham was commanded to circumcise himself when he was ninety-nine years old:

וַיְהִ֣י אַבְרָ֔ם בֶּן־תִּשְׁעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְתֵ֣שַׁע שָׁנִ֑ים וַיֵּרָ֨א ה' אֶל־אַבְרָ֗ם וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ אֲנִי־אֵ֣-ל שַׁדַּ֔י הִתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ לְפָנַ֖י וֶהְיֵ֥ה תָמִֽים׃ וְאֶתְּנָ֥ה בְרִיתִ֖י בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֑ךָ וְאַרְבֶּ֥ה אוֹתְךָ֖ בִּמְאֹ֥ד מְאֹֽד׃ וַיִּפֹּ֥ל אַבְרָ֖ם עַל־פָּנָ֑יו וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אִתּ֛וֹ אֱלֹק֖ים לֵאמֹֽר׃ אֲנִ֕י הִנֵּ֥ה בְרִיתִ֖י אִתָּ֑ךְ וְהָיִ֕יתָ לְאַ֖ב הֲמ֥וֹן גּוֹיִֽם׃ וְלֹא־יִקָּרֵ֥א ע֛וֹד אֶת־שִׁמְךָ֖ אַבְרָ֑ם וְהָיָ֤ה שִׁמְךָ֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם כִּ֛י אַב־הֲמ֥וֹן גּוֹיִ֖ם נְתַתִּֽיךָ׃ וְהִפְרֵתִ֤י אֹֽתְךָ֙ בִּמְאֹ֣ד מְאֹ֔ד וּנְתַתִּ֖יךָ לְגוֹיִ֑ם וּמְלָכִ֖ים מִמְּךָ֥ יֵצֵֽאוּ׃ וַהֲקִמֹתִ֨י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֜י בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֗ךָ וּבֵ֨ין זַרְעֲךָ֧ אַחֲרֶ֛יךָ לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם לִבְרִ֣ית עוֹלָ֑ם לִהְי֤וֹת לְךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹקים וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶֽיךָ׃ וְנָתַתִּ֣י לְ֠ךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ֨ אַחֲרֶ֜יךָ אֵ֣ת ׀ אֶ֣רֶץ מְגֻרֶ֗יךָ אֵ֚ת כָּל־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן לַאֲחֻזַּ֖ת עוֹלָ֑ם וְהָיִ֥יתִי לָהֶ֖ם לֵאלֹקים׃ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹקים֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם וְאַתָּ֖ה אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֑ר אַתָּ֛ה וְזַרְעֲךָ֥ אַֽחֲרֶ֖יךָ לְדֹרֹתָֽם׃ זֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥ין זַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר׃ וּנְמַלְתֶּ֕ם אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלַתְכֶ֑ם וְהָיָה֙ לְא֣וֹת בְּרִ֔ית בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵינֵיכֶֽם׃

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am E-l Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous". Abram threw himself on his face; and G-d spoke to him further, As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You shall be the father of a multitude of nations. And you shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fertile and make nations of you; and kings shall come forth from you. I will maintain My covenant between Me and you, and your offspring to come, as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, to be G-d to you and to your offspring to come. I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding. I will be their G-d". G-d further said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you." (Bereshit 17:1-11).

The commentaries were divided in the interpretation of the meaning of the imperative 'and be blameless ' in the context of the circumcision. The Ibn Ezra interpreted: "And be naive – do not ask what the circumcision is for" (ibid), which will accept the Divine imperative for the circumcision with full confidence that the act is correct, even if human reasoning does not fully understand.

The "innocence" in this context is a trust in the Almighty whose command is due to the absolute truth, and a belief in the purity of his 'motive's; that this is not an arbitrary imperative, and no foreign motives are involved, G-d forbid.

"Rabbi Simlai continued: …“A Psalm of David. Lord, who shall sojourn in Your Tabernacle? Who shall dwell upon Your sacred mountain? He who walks wholeheartedly, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heartThe Gemara analyzes these verses: “He who walks wholeheartedly”; this is referring to one who conducts himself like our forefather Abraham, as it is written concerning him: “Walk before Me and be wholehearted” (Bereshit 17:1). (Makkot 24a). "Interpreting the matter of innocence which would dismiss the reason and wisdom about G-d's commandments, not to ask reason and necessity for the commandment of circumcision " (Torah Temimah Bereshit 17:1).

To be 'blameless' and 'wholeheartedly' is necessary in the "Auditory Commandments" - the "laws- חֻקִּים֙" that no human being can understand with human logic, incomprehensible, like circumcision; but it is also needed in the "Rational Mitzvot" - the "rules -מִשְׁפָּטִ֔ים " that can be interpreted to a certain degree, but their existence must not be conditional on understanding the meaning of the Mitzvah. And it is as a reason (within the meaning of the verse):

יְהִֽי־לִבִּ֣י תָמִ֣ים בְּחֻקֶּ֑יךָ לְ֝מַ֗עַן לֹ֣א אֵבֽוֹשׁ׃

"May I wholeheartedly follow Your laws so that I do not come to grief". (Psalms 119:80) (Ramban ibid).

"Wholeheartedly" is a measure that should characterize the total relationship between man and G-d. It also includes the intention of the observant to do so by choosing "truth," "for its sake," and not for an external reason: "wholeheartedly" - with good intentions without ulterior motives" (Metzudat David on Psalms 119:80).

"Blameless " is a measure of the soul that is necessary for the reciprocal relationship between one and other: "And what is? That man will utter his words and negotiations without cheating, and his mouth and heart should be equal. For a hypocrite is not called blameless, but is constantly called wicked and cheater, etc… and all who walk wholeheartedly with G-d and the people, the Almighty will save them from sinning, etc. And from this fine measure came the degree of truth from the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy referred to by the Almighty, etc. (“The degrees on virtues” of the 13th century Physician Rav Yechiel).

The 'naivety' is supposed to characterize the trust to “guides”, parents and educators, where the pure truth without external influences is what motivates them. The instructor’s responsibility is what makes them conduct themselves in a way that does not crack the trust given to them and does not unravel naivety.

In the further circles of human interaction, innocence must also be equipped with a defense mechanism against those who might exploit it in a cynical, cunning and speculative way. And share a certain amount of suspicion and criticism with it.

It is told of one who came to the “Chafetz Chaim” and complained about his business partner who cheated on him and took advantage of his naivety. The Chafetz Chaim asked him why he had not tested and examined the conduct of his partner so he would not deceive him. And he answered because it might be contrary to the commandment: “You must be wholehearted with Hashem your G-d”.

תָּמִ֣ים תִּֽהְיֶ֔ה עִ֖ם ה' אֱלֹקיךָ׃

And the Chafetz Chaim answered him: It is written there to be innocent with G-d, not humans!

This we learned from Jacob our forefather who was “a mild man who stayed in camp”. אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃

and whose virtue is 'truth', but when he came to the deceitful and devious Laban the Aramean, who sought to exploit his innocence, he had to counter him.

When Rachel warned him of her father's plan: “Jacob said to her: What is his method of deceit of which I need be aware? Rachel said to him: I have a sister who is older than me, and he will not marry me off before he marries her off, even if he promises that he will do so. Jacob said to her: I am his brother, i.e., equal, in deceit, and he will not be able to deceive me. That is why Jacob said that he was “her father’s brother.” Rachel said to him: But is it permitted for the righteous to act deceitfully? Jacob answered her: Yes, in certain circumstances. As the verse states concerning God: “With the pure You show Yourself pure; and with the crooked You show Yourself subtle” (II Samuel 22:27). (Bava Batra 123a:19).

Deceiving Laban did not hurt the required 'innocence'.

In particular, things are meant for the public domain; The political and the media and other powerful and interesting public bodies for which things said, must not be treated innocently. Morning news reveal that behind-the-scenes, beautiful and 'value full' words, are sometimes hiding piquant intentions. That the 'naive' and purportedly objective introduction of facts is merely a trendy and manipulative presentation intended to serve a particular 'agenda'. And even more so, there are “Fake News” publications that are meant to be 'spins' and affect public opinion. And so, all of this should be treated with suspicion and criticism and not be accepted in 'innocence'.

Without this harming the 'innocence' where it is really needed.

Free choice and religious coercion

Parsha and its fulfillment - Parashat Lech Lecha - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5769

At the beginning of our Parasha, Avraham is commanded to go to the Land of Israel: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee. (Genesis 12: 1).

When was the commandment given to Avraham? At the conclusion of the previous Parasha, it is said that Avraham had already initiated his exit from Ur Kasdim to the land of Canaan on his own free will: "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. (11-31)

The Ibn Ezra and the Radak (ibid. 12: 1) interpreted the commandment Lech Lecha as being on the first exodus from Ur of the Chaldees, and everything was according to the G-ds command. But Rashi and the Ramban (ibid.) Explained that the commandment was to leave Haran for Eretz Yisrael, because they voluntarily left Ur of the Chaldees and settled in Haran.

The Zohar states that the Divine commandment to Avraham at this time stemmed from Avraham's free will awakening: "And when they came out, it was written, 'Go to the land of Canaan,' because they wanted to go there. From here we learn that when someone wants to be purified, you have to help him". Immediately after it says:" And God said to Avraham, Lech Lecha,' as he awoke, he began to go to the land of Canaan. It is written, “he who comes and wakes up from himself from below will get help from above.

Therefore, the way to awaken Hashem’s will is by awakening the free will of man from below, hence the importance of free choice from the free will of man.

The path of Avraham Avinu amongst the people of his generation, the idolaters to the belief in one G-d was in the propaganda and persuasion, without coercion:

"Since he knew and understood, he began to answer Ur Kasdim’s children’s questions and to judge with them, and to say that this is not the way of truth, and broke the idols and began to inform the people that it was inappropriate. And he went out and called aloud to the whole world and informed them that there is one G-d for everyone, and he would walk and call and gather the people from city to city and from kingdom to kingdom until he came to the land of Canaan. He would inform each and every one of his opinion until he returned them to the path of truth, etc. "(Rambam Avodat Kochavim).

I would like to add, that there is a fascinating and complex question: If you are forced to do a Mitzvah, but do not really want to do it, do you fulfill the obligation of the Mitzvah? A person not wanting to do so completely and say, 'I want to.' And his act is not voluntary and so does not mean to fulfill it as a commandment.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Zt"l joined the" League against Religious coercion "in the 1950s. And even paid membership dues. But left it when he realized that it was an organization that wanted to fight against Judaism in a sophisticated way. Creating the impression that Judaism has a compulsive and aggressive world view. Thus, leaving a substantive discussion between the secular liberal worldview and the religious worldview that has “Emunah”. An entrenched concept of spiritual and moral wealth that filled the Jewish people with all its hardships, and constitutes the basis for the creation of a modern, reformed and ethical Jewish society, facing the future.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Zt "l repeated to us that there is a distinction between the total negation of “religious coercion” in a person's private sphere and his conduct in his home and in his personal life, and the system of norms and laws that represent the public space of the Jewish state. In Israel, as in all the other socio-economic and security issues, there are differences of opinion between the various parts of Israeli society, and the decision between opinions, without full agreement, is translated into laws of public conduct, as well as on issues of religion and state. Laws that anchor the Jewish character of the public as public transport on Shabbat and other public services. The claim of coercion on the part of those whose views differ is similar to those who argue for socialist coercion due to the labor and welfare laws deriving from this worldview or by capitalist coercion in a dramatic cut in child allowances (תשס"ג - 2003).

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