Volumes would be needed to cover all of the subjects contained in Parshas Lech Lecha. Here we will attempt to present just a small sampling.
Parshas Lech Lecha is where Jewish history begins to take root in earnest.
When Avraham Avinu appeared on the horizon, the world became a different place. Wherever Avraham went, he proclaimed the name of Hashem (God). Avraham did this through his behavior and through his relationships with other people. But according to Rambam, Avraham also proclaimed and sanctified Hashem’s name through his speech, both in the public arena and in private.
In order to spread the name of Hashem as far and as wide as possible, it was important that Avraham be a man of substantial means. This would ensure his high status, imparting greater significance to Avraham’s words.
Egypt vs. Sodom
There is for us, however, an even more powerful lesson. Many have asked why Avraham would not accept gifts from the king of Sodom, but was glad to accept large numbers of animals, servants and precious metals from Pharaoh, all without comment. If it is okay to accept gifts to begin with, it should be okay in every instance!
The answer is: not necessarily. Everything Pharaoh gave Avraham was given as a well-earned compensation. Sarah was kidnapped, and Avraham was traumatized as a result. No matter what Pharaoh gave him, it actually would have been inadequate to alleviate his suffering.
More importantly perhaps, even after bestowing his largesse on Avraham, Pharaoh would still not have the leverage to exert any influence on Avraham. Avraham would continue on his merry way, ending up many miles distant, and everything would stay exactly the same. In the case of accepting gifts from the King of Sodom, on the other hand, the consequences would be far more grave and consequential. Avraham remained in close proximity to Sodom and he would always be indebted to the king for the gift he received— a problem since Avraham’s outlook in life was diametrically opposed to that of Sodom.
Sodom was characterised by the Torah itself as the epitome of evil. For the people of Sodom, not showing kindness to strangers was an ideal, a moral conviction: they absolutely believed their behavior was correct. Avraham, on the other hand, was diametrically opposed to withholding kindness from any outsider or wayfarer. The theme that runs through Avraham’s every word was עולם חסד יבנה, the world was created with and for kindliness. Avraham therefore saw that the withholding of kindness characterizing the people of Sodom would have ill effects, and was to be avoided at any cost.
Lot’s Great Error
Avraham both taught and practiced this most important principle at all times. But even great men can stumble. A case in point is the story of Avraham Avinu’s nephew, Lot. Lot was a devoted disciple, and he accompanied Avraham everywhere. Even when most of Terach’s family settled in Charan, Lot continued to follow his great teacher Avraham all the way to the Land of Canaan.
So great was Lot’s devotion that he followed Avraham all the way down to Egypt. The Torah tells us that Lot was rewarded for this loyalty with great wealth. And that, unfortunately, was where all the trouble began. When the two men’s shepherds began competing over territory for pasturing the herds, Lot at last left Avraham. Lot’s departure from his great mentor was a tragedy of the greatest magnitude, not in the least because of all places, Lot chose to go to Sodom.
We watch as the sad saga of Lot unfolds. Lot’s legacy is for his children to be ostracized, cut off from Klal Yisroel, forever. To be divided from the family of his beloved uncle Avraham was an unfathomable nightmare. Who could imagine that he, Lot, would fall so low, from close relative and prized student to the dustbin of Israel?
If he’d wished, Lot could have remained close by his family. But he’d gone too far afield. He’d gone to live with people who embodied the very opposite of all that he had learned from Avraham until now. That we learn, is the unhappy effects of having too much money.
We now can see the great power of fantastic wealth. When Avraham is in the driver’s seat, the destination is the highest heights. But when riches are placed in the hands of irresponsible individuals, the results can be devastating.
From the story of Lot, we learn the essential lesson of being שמח בחלקו – happy with your own portion; with what you have. The responsibility falls on us to recognize that all of us are wealthy in many ways. Be it good health, a loving family, and so much more, each of us possesses great wealth. Our responsibility is to see our treasure and utilize it for good. Let us not be driven by the passion to acquire wealth, because most of us are not suited to be rich. Approached from this perspective, we can be happy with our portion and enjoy a quality life of Torah and Mitzvos.
Parshas Lech Lecha | Submitted by Gavriel Lamm