Tuesday, August 16, 2005


The Gaza holdouts might look to the Torah reading called Lekh-Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), as they may find it has a lot to say to them this week. Lekh-lekha is Hebrew for "get out you" (more or less), and it begins by G-d telling Abram to leave the homeland he'd lived in for all his 75 years, and to set off to lands unknown, trusting in G-d's promise that he will make of him a great nation. The first lesson here is that sometimes faith requires that you pull up your stakes and leave your home.

The entire reading covers the extensive wanderings and trials of Abram, basically going for 24 more years before G-d finally fulfills his promise of a son to Abraham (as he was renamed) and his wife Sarah. (Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah 90 when she conceived their first child.) The second lesson is that G-d's promise is eventually kept, but you may have to endure a long period of setbacks and faith in the yet-to-be-fulfilled, and it may not be fulfilled in just the way you expect.

It's also worth noting that this reading tells us of the birth of Ishmael, son of Abram by Sarai's handmaid Hagar. While Abraham's son Isaac is the patriarch of the Jewish people, his other son Ishmael is the patriarch of the Muslim people. While G-d promises to make the children of Isaac His covenant people, He also promises to bless Ishmael, and to make him a great nation. Lesson three is that the Jews and Muslims are cousins and kinsmen. It is timely to remember that.

The reading also relates Abram first coming into the new lands with his brother Lot, and how the land was not enough to support both their flocks, and there was fighting between their herdsmen.
Abram said to Lot: "Let there be no strife between you and me, between my herdsmen and yours, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Let us separate: if you go north, I will go south; and if you go south, I will go north." -- Genesis 13:8-9
The final lesson is that wisdom sometimes requires a little distance to preserve peace among relatives.

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