Table Talk: Lech Lecha
Using Up Our Merit: Rashi teaches that Abraham was concerned after his miraculous victory over the Four Kings (The First Step) lest his victory was ‘paid for’ by his merit. Rav Yisroel Salanter used to say, “Mit ein tzimmis ken min oifessen der gantzer Olam Habbah!” – One can consume his entire portion in the World to Come with one bowl of Tzimmes! If a person’s pleasure in a bowl of cooked carrots is greater than the pleasure he derives from his Mitzvot, Torah study and prayer, he may use up his limited Olam Habbah – Portion in the World To Come – by the greater pleasure he derives from eating Tzimmes. (Reb Itzelleh Blazer; Kochvei Or.) What are the strategies to protecting our merit from being consumed in this lifetime?
Sodom & Jerusalem
As Abraham returns from his great victory over the Four Kings, he meets two Kings: The King of Sodom and the King of Shaleim. (14:17-24) The king of Sodom rules over a city that has already been described in the verse as “evil and sinning greatly against God.” (13:13) The King of Shaleim was a Priest of God, the Most High. Even his name Malki-Tzeddek, connotes righteousness. The king of Sodom “went out to meet him” (14:17) with empty hands. Malki-Tzeddek, “brought out bread and wine.” (Verse 18) Malki-Tzeddek was not in the war. He came out to greet Abraham as a spiritual partner, who also served “The Most High, Maker of heaven and earth.” (Verse 19) The king of Sodom demands, “Give me the people and keep the possessions for yourself.” (Verse 21) The Sages teach that Shaleim is Yerushalayim. Abraham’s children should choose the same path as Malki-Tzeddek, Abraham’s partner, not Sodom. However, Isaiah (1:21) cries over the people who have corrupted Jerusalem into another Sodom: “How the faithful city has become a harlot! She had been full of justice – Tzedek – righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers!” “Hear the word of God, O chiefs of Sodom; give ear to the teachings of our Lord, O people of Gomorrah.” (Isaiah 1:10) Why does the Torah choose this point of the Abraham story to focus on the contrast between Sodom and Jerusalem?
“And Abram said, ‘My Master, the Lord, what can you give me seeing that I go childless?’” (Genesis 15:2) A few verses later, Abram asks another question: “My Master, God, the Lord, whereby shall I know that I am to inherit it?” God answered the first question: “And He took him outside, and said, ‘Gaze, now, toward the heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them!’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be!’” (15:5) Abram was not criticized for his first question. However, he is criticized for his second question. What is the difference between the two?
Please see The Foundation Stone™Blog for more thoughts on this week’s portion:
The First Step
The Light In The Dark
The Power of An Idea
The Strategies of The Evil Inclination
The Altar of Confrontation
Beautiful In My Eyes
The Invisible Man
Battles Physical & Spiritual
The Protection of Chesed