Student Teaching in the New Millenium

5771 Lech Lecha

In Genesis on October 26, 2010 at 4:03 am

What does this mean, to go out? To leave your parents? “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother”? (Gen. 2:24)

What does this mean, to go out? To leave the nest of your family? “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred”? (Gen. 12:1) Is it significant that Abram didn’t leave all of his kindred? “And Lot went with him.” (Gen. 12:4) “And moreover she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and so she became my wife.” (Gen. 20:12) Is it also significant that God didn’t “show” Abram the land until Lot had left Canaan? “Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the Plain, and move his tent as far as Sodom…And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him: ‘Lift up now thine eyes, and look…for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” (Gen. 13:12-15)

What does this mean, to go out? To find a place to call home? “And they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.” (Gen. 12:5) “And he removed from thence unto the mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Ai on the east.” (Gen. 12:8)

What does this mean, to go out? To learn how to survive? “And there was a famine in the land; and Abram went down into Egypt.” (Gen. 12:10)

What does this mean, to go out? To learn to face fear? “‘And it will come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they will say: This is his wife; and they will kill me, but thee they will keep alive. Say, I pray thee, that thou art my sister; that it may be well with me for thy sake, and that my soul may live because of thee.'” (Gen. 12:12-13) Did Abram ever truly learn his lesson? “And he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife: ‘She is my sister.’ And Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah?” (Gen. 20:1-2)

What does this mean, to go out? To learn to protect you and yours? “And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed…And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men…and pursued…and also brought back his brother Lot.” (Gen. 14:12-16)

What does this mean, to go out? To learn humility? To pursue justice? “‘I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread nor a shoe-latchet nor aught that is thine…save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me.” (Gen. 14:22-24)

What does this mean, to go out? To make mistakes? “And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.” (Gen. 16:4) What is Abram’s mistake here? By our standards, taking Hagar as a “wife” while she was also a slave? Talmud states sex was a valid way to take a wife; this was outlawed later but legitimate in Abram’s time. This is an interesting contradiction: The Torah’s ideal is monogamous marriage, but this is clearly a polygamous practice. In fact, Jacob marries Leah and Rachel. How do we reconcile this? Back to the Parsha, did Abram exalt Hagar over Sarai? Did Abram love Hagar? “And Sara said unto Abram: ‘My wrong be upon thee: I gave my handmaid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes; the Lord judge between me and thee.'” (Gen. 16:5) Is this not simply the behavior of an unhappy master? Or the behavior of a scorned, angry, frightened woman? Abram did not go out of his way to correct the situation. “‘Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her that which is good in thine eyes.’ And Sarai dealt harshly with her.” (Gen. 16:6) Why not? Was this just “she’s your servant, do what you will”? Or something else entirely? We make a big deal about Isaac disappearing from the narrative for a time following the Akedah in Vayera. What about Sarah? She is not heard from again after demanding Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. (Gen. 21:10) Why? Did Hagar create a rift?

What does this mean, to go out? In all these things, to venture into the unknown? “Fear thou not, for I am with thee, Be not dismayed, for I am thy God” (Isa. 41:10)

What does this mean, to go out? To learn to stand up for yourself? “He giveth power to the faint; And to him that hath no might He increaseth strength.” (Isa. 40:29)

What does this mean, to go out? To discover yourself? “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham.” (Gen. 17:2)

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  1. Your questions are spot on. Your midrash great. welcome to rabbinic studies

  2. Now i have a question. Why King David as the ashlamta to the parsha (next week)about the death of Sarah and the finding a wife for Isaac?

    • Is this because David is facing the end of his line? Like Abraham? Or is God ashlamta by proxy?

      Is David’s oath prophetic?

  3. Also, looking ahead to parshat toldot, teach us about Rebeccas Children and Jews and Christians. Repeat the thesis of Alan Segal.

  4. I experience fall and early winter as genesis time.
    Yearly reencountering the founding father and mothers
    of our people is a delight.

    The prophet Hosea is about to make his return.
    A most fascinating prophet.

    What do you experience as Hosea’s reading of our heros from the past?

    What is his ashlamta?

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