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Lech Lecha 5772

Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Did you ever hear the old joke, "Do you know the difference between a Jewish pessimist and a Jewish optimist?  The Jewish pessimist says, 'It can't get worse!'  The Jewish optimist says, 'It can!' "  Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you view it.  Our attitude is really the only thing that we can have hope to control in our life.

Our attitude affects not only our own happiness, but if affects others.  We often look at people who have a happy, positive attitude as pie-eyed optimists who aren't living in reality.  We often find them irritating and exasperating.  But ... who is better off in the end -- the one who looks at things positively and has energy to persist and accomplish or the one is the "realist" looking at life with a negative attitude that it probably will get worse?  Here's an apocryphal story that hopefully you'll find not only amusing, but will have an impact on how you choose to look at life.

A king in Africa was out hunting.  His companion and gun bearer was a person whose attitude towards life is "It couldn't be better.  This is for the good."  The gun bearer erred in loading the king's rifle causing a misfire which blew off the king's thumb.  When the gun bearer exclaimed, "This is for the good," the king replied, "No, it's not!" and had the gun bearer put in jail.

Close to a year later the king was once again hunting; this time he was captured by cannibals.  They were ready to prepare the king for dinner when they noticed the missing thumb; being superstitious, the cannibals would not eat someone who was less than whole, so they let the king go!

Immediately, the king went to the jail to free his gun bearer.  "You were right," said the king, "this was for the good!  I am so terribly sorry that I sent you to jail."  "No," replied the gun bearer, "being in jail was for the good, too."

"What do you mean?  Look how you have suffered," said the king.  "Yes," responded the gun bearer, "but if I wasn't in jail ... I would have been with you!"

It is so very important to train oneself to look positively upon life's situations.  From a Torah point of view, all that happens in life is ultimately for the good.  The Almighty loves us and wants only the best for us.  He gives us opportunities for spiritual and character growth every day.

So many times what appears as "bad" or "negative" ends up being a blessing.  In the meanwhile, we have invested so much time and energy into worrying or regretting -- all for nothing and all to our detriment.  It is wise to remember that worry is defined as interest paid in advance on a debt which often times never comes due.


The Shabbat preceding the new Jewish month, we recite a special prayer, Birchat HaChodesh, Blessing of the New Month.  The beauty and the comprehensiveness of this prayer makes it special.  Perhaps it is a prayer that articulates your needs and that you may wish to recite from time to time:


        "May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, to make this new month one for goodness and for blessing.  Give us long life, a peaceful life, a good life, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a healthy life, a life in which there is fear of Heaven and fear of sin; a life in which there is no embarrassment or humiliation, a life of wealth and honor; a life in which there is love of Torah and fear of Heaven, a life in which the requests of our hearts will be fulfilled for the good."

By the way, if you are wondering why "fear of Heaven" is mentioned twice: once one has a life of wealth and honor, it is harder to keep one's fear of Heaven.  Therefore, the prayer includes a second request for "fear of Heaven" ... after one has wealth and honor.  Prayer is talking with God and an excellent way of helping to see the positive in life!


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Torah Portion of the Week
Lech Lecha

The Almighty commands Avram (later renamed Avraham) to leave Haran and go to the "place that I will show you" (which turned out to be the land of Canaan -- later renamed the Land of Israel).  The Almighty then gives Avram an eternal message to the Jewish people and to the nations of the world, "I will bless those who bless you and he who curses you I will curse."  Finding a famine, Avram travels to Egypt (once renamed to be part of the United Arab Republic) asking Sarai (later renamed Sarah), to say she is his sister so they won't kill him to marry her (the Egyptians were particular not to commit adultery ... so they would kill the husband instead).

Pharaoh evicts Avram from Egypt after attempting to take Sarai for a wife. They settle in Hebron (also known as Kiryat Arba) and his nephew Lot settles in Sodom.  Avram rescues Lot -- who was taken captive -- in the Battle of the Four Kings against the Five Kings.

Entering into a covenant with the Almighty (all covenants with the Almighty are eternal, never to be abrogated or replaced by new covenants), Avram is told that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years and that his descendants (via Isaac, "... through Isaac will offspring be considered yours." Gen. 21:8) will be given the land "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."

Sarai, childless, gives her handmaid Hagar to Avram for a wife so that he will have children.  Ishmael (the alter zedeh -- the grandfather -- of our Arab cousins) is born.  The covenant of brit mila, religious circumcision, is made (read 17:3-8), God changes their names to Avraham and Sarah and tells them that Sarah will give birth to Yitzhak (Isaac).  Avraham circumcises all the males of his household.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the Almighty said to Avram, 'Go from your land and your birthplace and from the house of your father to the land which I will show you' " (Gen.12:1).

Rabbi Nachum of Tzernoble devoted much time and effort to redeeming Jews who were put into prisons by anti-Semitic regimes.  He traveled from place to place gathering funds to make the payments necessary to free those imprisoned.  Once when he was in Zhitomer, some people fabricated a libel against him and he was put in prison.

A friend came to him in prison to comfort him and give him a positive perspective on his situation.  He said to Rabbi Nachum, "Our forefather Avraham was outstanding in his kindness to wayfarers.  He took in people who were traveling and expended great efforts to make his guests comfortable.  He always wanted to know what more he could possibly do to help his guest.  The Almighty told him to travel away from his father's home, his birthplace, and his land.  Only now when he personally experiences being a stranger in a foreign place will he know firsthand what it is like.  This will give him a greater appreciation of what he can do to help his guests."

"Similarly with you," his friend told him.  "You are completely devoted to freeing prisoners.  From Heaven they are giving you a chance to experience what it is like to be held captive by the enemies of our people.  This will give you an even deeper appreciation of the necessity of doing all you can to free other people in the future with all possible speed."


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An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory


With Deep Appreciation to

Robert Steinberg

Greenwich, Conn.


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