Lech Lecha 5762

June 23, 2009

8 min read


Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )

GOOD MORNING!  Not long ago an Aish colleague and friend, Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt, lost his young and beloved wife, Elana. She was an inspiration to all who knew her in her battle for life. I was very touched by the article Rabbi Rosenblatt wrote entitled, "Lessons From Elana" which was on aish.com. I learned much from it and I asked his permission to share it with you. Here is Rabbi Rosenblatt's article:


My wife, who passed away some weeks ago, was someone who gave and gave and gave to all around her. She will be missed by many. I have spent the last 2 months firstly taking care of her full time and then mourning her. I would like to share with you some of the deep lessons I have learned during this period.

Six weeks before my wife passed away, our oncologist called me into her office. 'Time is very limited,' she told me. How limited, I wanted to know. 'No more than a few days,' was her response. Well, we had six weeks, six very wonderful weeks and I think we have our oncologist's pessimistic prediction to thank as much as anything else. If you think that someone you love might die tomorrow, you will make sure that you love him or her properly today. If you think that you might die tomorrow, you will make sure that you use today.

The Rabbis tell us to 'do teshuva (mend your ways) the day before you die'. The obvious question is: how does one know? And the response is, so do teshuva every day - for it may be your last.

Death is very much a part of life. Some people are blessed with death arriving slowly and with ample warning. Others die suddenly. But it is a reality that none of us can avoid: we will all die one day.

My wife told me on many occasions that thank God we do not live for a thousand years, because we would not get up in the morning if we did. Who needs to capture the moment if you have a thousand years of moments to capture?

We spent six weeks of intense, quality time - probably more than we would have put into 6 years - no, maybe 60 years, had she been healthy.

Neither she nor I knew whether she would wake up in the morning. But in reality no one knows what will be tomorrow; cancer or no cancer, life is very fickle. Each day of life is an opportunity that we cannot be sure will exist tomorrow. Each day is too precious to be wasted on worry, frustration at ourselves, anger at those we love... Living each day as though it is your last is not morbid. If done properly, it is incredibly uplifting.

Take a moment today to think of the things you would do if this were your last day. How would you want to love those you love? How would you want to use your time productively? What would you want to share with those around you? What would you want to teach? If these things are important to you, then do them today. Don't wait until time is very limited, because time is always very limited.

Another lesson I learned is that no matter what, prayers do not go unanswered. Sometimes the answer is positive in the way you asked for it, and sometimes the answer is positive in a way you didn't ask for it. But the answer is always positive. Every prayer is answered!

During shiva, I was struggling to know how to relate to the words we say 3 times in the morning service, 'God is our savior. Our King will answer us on the day that we call'. Well, I had called and called and called for almost three years. I had cried rainstorms of tears - and I had not been answered. My wife had died.

I asked my teacher. He gave me an answer that, after a good amount of thought, feels right to me. God healed my wife - but not in the way I was looking for. The way He healed her was greater than anything I could have imagined. He healed her not physically, but spiritually and I was and am envious of the spiritual health that she attained. A few days before she passed away, she said that for the first time in her life, she truly felt that God loves her. She had always known it, but had never been able to fully feel it. Now she did. She felt at one with God and at one with me. She felt at one with herself and she knew that life really was beautiful. While her body was as sick as could be, her soul was healthier than anyone I had ever met. Even two days before her passing, she said she would not swap places with anyone.

Why couldn't God heal her soul and body at the same time? It's a good question, but we cannot know all of God's ways -or we would be God Himself. So I don't know why both were not possible. But I do know that God healed her. And, if for some reason there had to be a choice between spiritual and physical health, I know which she would have chosen - and I also know which I would have chosen had our roles been reversed. God answered when I called - just not in the way I asked for. But God is not a vending machine. He's a loving, caring father with whom we have a dynamic relationship. We pray. He listens, considers and decides how best to respond based on who we are and what we need. His answer is always positive.

There is a second aspect to this. Every prayer I said for my wife changed me. It changed my relationship with her. It changed my relationship with myself and, of course, it changed my relationship with God. No prayer was wasted. Each accomplished its mission - that of making me a little more Godly. Each prayer softened my heart and humbled me and I am a very different person today because of the intensity of the prayers I said for my wife.

Judaism maintains that we are here in this world to get closer to God. My wife got closer to God. I got closer to God. I believe our community as well got closer to God. The circumstances and details of the situation were painful, even horrific. It is not the way that either of us wanted it to happen, but the results were what we were looking for. We are complex beings in a complex world. We can't expect to understand every aspect of that world. We don't tell our kids everything and God doesn't tell us everything either. But this we can know: we pray and He answers us. We might not always fully understand his answer, but it is always a loving yes. And we will always be better people for it.

Portion of the Week

Lech Lecha

The Almighty commands Avram (later renamed Avraham) to leave Haran and go to 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).

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." (I do not think that this part of the story made it into the Koran...)

Sarai, childless, gives her handmaid Hagar to Avram for a wife so that he will have children. Ishmael (the alter zedeh 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.

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Jerusalem  4:19
Guatemala 5:18  Hong Kong 5:33  Honolulu 5:41
J'Burg 6:01  London 5:27  Los Angeles 5:48
Melbourne 6:30  Miami 6:26  Moscow 4:46

New York 5:42  Singapore  6:33


Who is wealthy?
He who takes pleasure
in what he has.

In Loving Memory of
Elana Rosenblatt

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