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Lech Lecha 5768

Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! If you have lost someone recently or in the past year, you probably will find of great interest a new book, Living Kaddish by Rabbi Gedalia Zweig (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). In it Rabbi Zweig raises our consciousness about the profound and deeply important mitzvah of saying Kaddish. He introduces us to dozens of devoted Jews throughout the world from varying backgrounds who share their personal stories and challenges of saying Kaddish – and, through performing this mitzvah, their unforgettable, miraculous, and life-changing experiences.

___One story I found both exciting and meaningful was that of Martin Sokol's search for a minyan (a quorum of 10 Jewish men over the age of 13 needed for a prayer service and to say kaddish) in Brussels. A stranger, who identified himself as Jewish, offered Martin to have his chauffeur follow his car to a minyan. At the building in a warehouse district, the stranger points to a door and yells out his window, "It's in there" and then drives off.

___Mr. Sokol rings the bell at a steel gray door, is buzzed in after telling them what he wants. He is then surrounded by men with Uzi submachine guns who want to know who he is and how he got there. When he tells them, they grill him with questions: How old was he when he was bar mitzvahed? When is Shabbat? How many questions do we ask on Passover? Then they let him in the building.

___It turned out he had entered a Yeshiva which had strong security because a few months earlier the leader of the Brussels Jewish community was shot and killed by PLO terrorists. Writes Mr. Sokol, "When I found out where I was and thought of the strict security these children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors had to endure, I was unable to speak. Tears filled my eyes. My throat was choked with emotion. I could not stop thinking that fewer than fifty years after the Holocaust, Jews were once again in danger in Europe.

___"For me, the experience symbolized our long, troubled history. Kaddish is said to remember people we loved who are no longer alive. The children help me to remember that we have survived and that there will always be another generation who will remember, who will fight to retain our precious heritage, who will say Kaddish."



___Kaddish is the prayer which a mourner recites for 11 months following the passing of one's father and mother. It is recited for one month for one's brother, sister, spouse, son or daughter. It is commonly thought of as "the prayer for the dead." In reality, as we will see in looking at the words, it is an affirmation of the belief and trust in the Almighty. Here is the Artscroll Siddur translation of the Mourner's Kaddish:

"May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed. May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel, swiftly and soon...

(The congregation then responds: 'Amen. May His great Name be blessed for ever and ever.')

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed is He

(Congregation responds: 'Blessed is He.')

beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation that are uttered in the world.... May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel.... He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel."

___As one can see, there is no mention of the deceased, death or mourning. Kaddish is an affirmation of life - a recognition of the Almighty, a prayer that His greatness should be recognized and a request for peace and life for the Jewish people. Besides affirming or reassuring the mourner's belief in the Almighty, the reciting of Kaddish gives merit to the soul of the deceased because the one who recites Kaddish (the mourner) causes the congregation to praise the name of the Almighty: "May His great name be blessed for ever and ever" and "Blessed is He." There are many stories in the Talmud and the Midrash about the great benefit of this merit to the soul of the deceased in the World to Come.

___A close friend confided to me that the obligation to say Kaddish not only gave him a way to show respect and gratitude for his parents, but tremendously comforted him by placing him in the synagogue in the company of other Jews twice each day.

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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 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.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

___The Torah states:

"And when Avram heard that (Lot) was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, who were born into his household, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them as far as Dan." (Gen. 14:14)

___Why does the Torah go into such detail about the war of the four kings against the five kings?

___The Chofetz Chaim explains that this shows us how much Avraham exerted himself in his effort to save the captive Lot. This was a fulfillment of the commandment to save a person whose life is in danger (Leviticus 19:16). Although Lot had only himself to blame for choosing to dwell in Sodom amongst wicked inhabitants, Avraham did all he could to save him.

___The Ramban points out that it probably took Avraham a long time to reach Lot and free him, because the distance he traveled was great. From this we learn that we must try to free someone from captivity, no matter how much time it entails.

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