Parashat Lech Lecha

Why Throughout life, we find ourselves tested with Different situations?

by Torah V’Nefesh

And Hashem said to Avram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.

The Netziv in his Hamek Davar asks the question. Looking at the pasuk and its message it would seem that the order of where Avram was to leave from is out of order. Avram should have been commanded to leave first his birth place, then his father’s home, and finally his land? If he was commanded to leave his land first wasn’t it obvious that it would entail leaving his birthplace and father’s home too?

From your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house. It would’ve been more appropriate for the Torah to write the opposite, first go from your father’s house followed by your birthplace and finally your land. Rather, Avram was given a warning on the importance of forgetting and uprooting the memories of his land, birthplace, and father’s house from his heart; to take his mind off these places and their environments. First, forget your land, then your birthplace, followed by your father’s house which is closest to him and sever all ties to the past in which he grew up in.

For Avram, leaving wasn’t just a command to move in the physical sense but to also remove the emotional ties of his current life and to detach himself from the negative and false beliefs that were bred in this environment.

Another question may be asked. Avram was tested with the Asara Nisyonot, the ten tests, and Lech Lecha being one of them. If Hashem were to appear to any individual with the command to leave his/her home with the promise that it would be good for them, would it this be so difficult to consent? In other words, what was the actual test Avram was being challenged with as it seems that fulfilling Hashem’s command, given its promise, was an easy decision and task to follow?

Picture the scene. At work one day Mr. Goldberg suffers a major heart attack and is rushed to the ER. The severity of his situation is one where the doctors are unsure whether he will survive and a team of specialists are called in to assist with his resuscitation. His wife is immediately called by the ER staff and the conversation begins. “Mrs. Goldberg? Yes, that’s me. We’re calling from the local hospital, how are you today? I’m okay”, she responds. “We’d like for you to come to the hospital as your husband was brought in because he wasn’t feeling so well”. “Is his condition serious?” asks Mrs. Goldberg. “What happened?” The nurse on the phone answers, “We hope he’ll be okay, but you should come now, he suffered a heart attack but is being stabilized. He is being treated by the best medical staff with the most advanced cardiac care available.” Mrs. Goldberg replies, “Ok. I’ll be right over”.

Now, imagine if when Mrs. Goldberg got the call she was told: “Come quickly, your husband suffered a major heart attack, is not responsive and may not survive”. The shock of that call would scare her and make a bad situation even worse. The nursing staff purposely broke the news in a delicate and sensitive manner to prepare her for a more serious situation. When Mrs. Goldberg arrives at the hospital she is now already conditioned to digest the severity of her husband’s state of health.

Perhaps this was Avram Avinu’s test. For Avram to uproot himself from his hometown and plan for the unknown was difficult. Hashem appears to Avram and says Lech Lecha but gets straight to the point.‭ ‬מארצך from your land.That piece of news was a shock and must have been difficult for Avram to hear. Leave, and leave it all. Hashem didn’t begin with leave your birthplace first and then break the news slowly making it easier to comprehend the forthcoming change. The command was immediate and direct. Avram was told to leave it all, to leave his land. Not the next town over and not to a different city either. This would explain why the order of the pasuk commanding Avram to leave was seemingly out of order.

Throughout life, we find ourselves tested with situations that vary in intensity with some easier to accept and deal with and others delivered with a bang leaving us wondering why couldn’t things be a bit easier. This test given to Avram teaches us that within the test he was given, its form of delivery and his acceptance of it, was where he excelled and fulfilled the Lech Lecha, ultimately passing the Test (nisayon).


facts of life: take this serious

Leaving the Garbage Behind

And God said to Avram, go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Gen. 12:1)

The Torah portion begins with Avraham’s first trial: to give up his entire past and follow God’s lead to a new land: God said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” When a person leaves his hometown, he first leaves his father’s house, then his neighborhood (his relatives), and then his country. Why does the verse list these in the opposite order?

R’ Shalom Shwadron explains that when a person makes a physical departure, he first leaves his father’s house, then his relatives, and then his country. However, the verse is alluding to Avraham’s departure in a spiritual sense. “Leaving your hometown” means changing your old ways and leaving behind your bad habits. Therefore, the order in the verse is reversed, starting with the easier things. The culture of a person’s country is not so deeply ingrained, and so it can be uprooted relatively easily. More difficult is to get rid of bad habits a person acquired amongst his social circle and friends. Finally, to shake off bad traits acquired at home is very challenging.(1)

The Sfat Emet quotes the Zohar, which states that God called out “Go for yourself,” in every generation, but Avraham was the only one to respond to God’s call. God still calls out “go for yourself” today, and we need to respond. We must distance ourselves from bad habits and serve God even though it may require inconvenience or hardship.

By Rabbi Eli Scheller


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Bait Aaron Basic Shabbat Stories That will ignite your Neshama

A Comedian’s Return To Judaism

By Danny Lobell

I used to see Judaism as a restriction, but now I view it as a way to take better care of my soul.

I’m standing on the boardwalk in my hometown of Long Beach, New York, leaning over the rails and looking out into the ocean. Seagulls are flying over my head, and the clouds are moving fast through the electrifying magenta sky. It’s Yom Kippur. I close my eyes and make a silent vow to God: I will fully observe one Shabbat this coming year.

At this point in my life, I’d hit a low point in my Jewish practice. I was eating at White Castle and Popeyes and even some classier Manhattan steakhouses. I gave up Shabbat in favor of performing comedy, it had been years since I put on tefillin, and I didn’t date Jewish women.

My family started off in a Conservative synagogue when I was a young kid and we were living in Flushing, Queens. Then we moved to Long Island, where I went to the religious Zionist school. Over my years there, it turned more right wing, and I didn’t feel like I fit in as much.

My parents kept me in private Jewish schools until the ninth grade, when I got kicked out of a highly academic yeshiva for subpar (below an average level) grades in secular studies. I was sent to a yeshiva for rejects, which was run poorly and made me feel like even more of an outcast. Finally, I finished my education at the public Long Beach High School, and became involved with NCSY, an Orthodox youth leadership group, and B’nai B’rith, a Reform one.

I started doing standup and moved to the Upper East Side after college. I looked for a synagogue but I didn’t feel welcome anywhere. I tried to be part of both the comedy and religious Jewish community. I was lacking in both areas, and decided that it wasn’t worth it to straddle both worlds. I had a lot of built up resentments from my childhood, mainly being kicked out of yeshiva when I loved Judaism. I figured it wasn’t worth it to try and fit in anymore.

I made my vow on Yom Kippur to keep one Shabbat because it was always the holiday in which I most connected to God. I would pray with my family at the Sephardic Congregation of Long Beach, where we’d collectively sing beautiful songs like Aneinu. Somewhere in the midpoint of the day, I’d stop worrying about the fast and connect on a deeper, more spiritual level with the world. I’d go to the beach and talk to God one-on-one.

After the heavenly gates closed that Yom Kippur, I went back to my life as a comedian living in Brooklyn as if nothing had changed. It was not until a few months later, while walking down Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg on my way to a comedy show, that I ran into a young Chabad rabbi on the street.

Instead of him approaching me, as Chabad rabbis often do, I went up to him. I asked him if he was a rabbi, and he said he was. I told him about my vow on Yom Kippur. He said that they had Friday night dinners and services at his Chabad House just a few doors down on Bedford.

For me, at the time, keeping Shabbat only meant attending a meal. Free food was all I needed to hear. I took mental note of the address and the time that the meal was held, and went about my night.

It would not be another five months until I actually decided to show up.

What I saw when I went was an ambitious rabbi with a beautiful family. He hosted people practicing various levels of Judaism. Some were completely reform, and sometimes Chassidim in shtreimels would show up. They would cook huge meals, and never ask for anything in return except for our participation.

Two years later, I was a regular attendee and had started dating a non-Jewish girl named Kylie. I mentioned that there was a place we could go for a free meal on Friday nights, so she came along with me. I didn’t anticipate that she would end up loving it and decide to pursue an Orthodox conversion. It was not without difficulty that I came back to traditional Judaism, but that’s a whole different story.

These days, I am observing Shabbat, the holidays, and kashrut with Kylie, who is now my Jewish wife.

I used to see Judaism as a restriction, but now my attitude has changed. I view it as a way to take better care of your soul.

I see Shabbat as a time to recharge my spiritual battery, and putting on tefillin gives me inner peace. In terms of my comedy career, I learned that the restriction on Shabbat was not only to do work, but not to specifically do creative work. That really resonated with me. If God, the ultimate Creator, can take a day off from creating, then as a comedy creator, I had a good role model to follow.

Since I’ve been taking off for Shabbat, I’ve felt more creative than ever. It’s been a struggle not performing on Friday nights, but I’ve found my niche. I put out two podcasts, host a live standup show on weeknights, come up with original characters, make my own YouTube videos, and tell stories on public radio.

I used to grapple with labels, and wondered where I fit in. Was I Chabad? Modern Orthodox? Right wing? Left wing? Sephardic? Instead of trying to identify with one group, I let myself be a part of all of them.

I am, simply put, a Jew. And I’m proud to be a part of it all.

Parsha Summary 

1st Aliyah: Avram is instructed to leave Charan and travel 400 miles to the Land of Canaan. (Charan was 600 miles from Ur Casdim) Upon arriving, they are forced to leave Canaan, due to a local famine, and travel to Mitzrayim in search of food.

2nd Aliya: Avram plans for his encounter with the amorality of Egypt. His and Sarah’s confrontation with Pharaoh is detailed. Avram and Sarah return home.

3rd Aliya: Avram separates from his nephew / brother-in-law Lot, due to Lot’s defection from the teachings of Avram. Hashem reassures Avram that he will have children, “like the dust of the earth”, who will inherit the Land and carry on his work.

4th Aliya: Avram is forced to rescue Lot from captivity. In so doing, he adjusts the balance of power in Canaan and is recognized by the other political leaders for his military and moral strength. His encounter with Malki Tzedek (Shem) is in stark contrast to his confrontation with the King of Sodom.

5th Aliya: Hashem again reassures Avram that he will have genetic children (not just students) who would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

6th Aliya: The monumental “Covenant Between the Halves” takes place during which the next 430 years of Jewish history is revealed. Avram is 70 years old. Sarai instructs Avram to marry Hagar. The story of her conflict with Sarai, her encounter with an angel, and the birth of Yishmael in 2034 is told. Following the birth of Yishmael Avram’s name is changed to Avraham.

7th Aliya: Avraham is presented with the Mitzvah of Circumcision. Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and Hashem assures Avraham he and Sarah will have a son called Yitzchak. It is the year 2047 and Avraham circumcises himself, Yishmael, and his entire household.