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Lech Lecha 5766

Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   The story is told of woman who enters what she believes is a Chinese laundry. However, there behind the counter is a little old Jewish man. Asks the woman, "Isn't this a Chinese laundry?" Responds the man with a thick Yiddish accent, "Vell, no. I own it. I guess you could call it a Jewish laundry." "What about the name?" queries the woman. "Ah, the name! I was standing in line at Ellis Island behind my cousin. The immigration man asked, 'Vat's your name?' and my cousin replied, 'Rabinowitz.' Then the immigration man asked me the same question and I replied, 'Sam Ting.' "

What's in a name? When the Almighty created humans he called the first man "Adam" meaning "earthling - created from adama/earth". and the first woman "Chava" meaning "the mother of all living". Then the Almighty presented each creature to Adam to name the creature according to its essence.

Avraham was first called "Avram" - meaning "Father of his native land Aram." Later the Almighty added the letter "heh" to his name after entering into the Covenant of Bris Mila - his new name meaning "Father of many nations." His wife, Sarah, was originally "Sarai" meaning "my princess" - a princess in his (Avraham's) house. Changing her name to Sarah meant that she was now "a princess for the whole world."

When a baby is born, the custom is to name the child after someone. The Sephardic custom is to name the first boy after the father. The Ashkenazic custom is to name the child after someone deceased - to carry on the name, to remember the departed loved one and perhaps most important, there is a mystical influence upon the child by the name he or she is given.

If one has enough children to run out of deceased relatives - or is lucky enough to have his children while his parents and grandparents are still alive, then the custom is to name after great tzadikim - righteous men and women in Jewish history.

The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people were redeemed from slavery on the merit of three things:

  1. They didn't change their distinctively Jewish dress (hence the strength of maintaining distinctive garb in Hasidic circles).
  2. They didn't change their language.
  3. They didn't change their names.

They kept their identity as Jews!

It is fascinating how in America a child will be given an English name and a Hebrew name. The English name will usually start with the same letter as the Hebrew name to give a hint of the Hebrew name. For instance, the child will be named Max after his grandfather Mordechai or Howard after his grandfather Chaim. Now, however ... perhaps a sign of the times ... there are so many Jews who don't remember who they were named after or their own Hebrew names.

If a person regains consciousness after a trauma, the first question asked is, "What's your name?" If the person doesn't know his name, he has suffered severe trauma. Perhaps we, the Jewish people, have suffered a severe trauma with so many Jews who don't remember their names.

Ask your relatives who you were named after or what your Hebrew name is before it is too late to ask. Ask them what their Hebrew names are before it is too late to ask and no one knows what name to put on the tombstone. I know of an Jewish woman named Regina who passed on. The family asked a scholarly friend if he knew her Hebrew name. Responded the man, "Regina is Latin for queen so her Hebrew name must be Malka (queen in Hebrew)." In reality, the woman's father, who was born in the late 1800's, did not know Latin. He named her Regina because it started with "R" - just like her Hebrew name, Rivka.

I once met a man who only found out he was Jewish before he left home for college. At the university he met a beautiful blond, blue-eyed girl named Helga. When he asked her father for her hand he was turned down because "we are Jewish and I don't want a non-Jew for a son-in-law." He turned to Helga with great surprise and asked, "You're Jewish? So am I!" Only after their two daughters became Jewishly observant and had children did the man find his identity - "Saba" - grandpa in Hebrew. "All my life I never really had a sense of who I was or what my mission is in life. When I became a grandparent I realized that I am a link in the chain of the Jewish people and my purpose is to strengthen that link and to strengthen the chain!"

What is in a name? It is who you are and who you want to be!

For more on "Names" go to!


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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 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 zeideh 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 Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And (the Almighty) took (Avraham) outside and He said to him, 'Look up, please, at the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them ... so, too, will be your descendants."

Rashi cites the Talmudic statement (Nedarim 32a) that the Almighty told Avraham to discount the effects of astrological influence. "Even if there is a sign in the stars that you (Avraham) will not have children, you will rise above this and will merit having children." From here the Talmud (Shabbos 156a) states, "There is no Mazel (arbitrary predestined luck) for the Jewish people." When the Torah says, "So, too, will be your descendants," it means that the Jewish people need not fear any negative predictions in the stars.

Trust in the Almighty and awareness of His unlimited power free a person from fears of predictions from astrology, Tarot, palm reading, etc. Prayer and the merit of good deeds will be able to change a negative destiny to a positive one!

CANDLE LIGHTING - November 11:
(or go to

Jerusalem  4:07
Guatemala 5:13  Hong Kong 5:23  Honolulu 5:32
J'Burg 6:13  London 3:59  Los Angeles 4:34
Melbourne 7:47  Mexico City 5:41  Miami 5:17

New York 4:24  Singapore 6:33  Toronto 4:39


A bad wound may heal,
but a bad name will

In Memory of
Arthur & Bertha Goldman
and Leonard Savage
with love,
Ellen Goldman & Sam Savage

1 2 3 2,899

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