Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Past, Future, and Living in the Moment

Posted by rabbiart on November 2, 2008

We once had the opportunity to be in a class taught by the great Biblical scholar Nehama Leibowitz (aleha hashalom).  She had us compare the opening verse (Breshit 12:1) of Lech Licha with the beginning of the Akedah story (Breshit 22:2).  The two verses have a remarkably similar structure.

לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ

Go and leave your land, your birthplace and your fathers house, to the land that I will show you.

וַיֹּאמֶר קַח-נָא אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר-אָהַבְתָּ, אֶת-יִצְחָק, וְלֶךְ-לְךָ, אֶל-אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה; וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם, לְעֹלָה, עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים, אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ

Take your son, your only son that you love, Isaac and go and leave to the land of Moriah, and sacrifice him there as a sacrifice on one of the hills, which I will tell you.

Each verse opens with a three part specification to Avraham about what he will give up, and ends with – to Avraham – an unknown that HaShem will specify.  In our parshah, Avraham is asked to give up his past and all his connections to his (soon to be) former life.  But in the next two verses, he is promised a great and compelling future.  A future that will come through his son.  In the Akedah, Avraham is told to give up his future; the very promise that justified giving up his past.  In each case, there is a tantalizing unknown at the end of the verse.

In Lech Licha, Avraham is invited to begin a bold journey that is at once geographical, emotional and also a journey of faith.  He can only know what he is giving up.  He does not know where he will end up, and he cannot know whether the great promise will ultimately be fulfilled.

In the Akedah, (as far as he knows) Avraham is told to give up his future.  The entire justification for his journey is to be taken away from him. Truly, he cannot know what the future will bring him.

Avraham lives between a past that he knows and a future that he cannot know.  When he is called in the moment, he answers.  In one way, we are exactly like Avraham, living between our past and our future.  The question is, when called, will we answer?  What future will we bring into the present?

Extra – Another example of closely reading the text

Compare Breshit 12:5 and 13:1.  Remember that in13:6 and following  we will read of the discord between Avram and Lot.  What comes between them and causes the strife?  Property.  Now look again at the two verses, and note the position of Lot in each verse.  In 12:5 Lot is close to Avram, but in 13:1 the property is literally between them.  It’s impossible to read the Torah too closely.

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