Parashah:
Lekh L’kha
(Get yourself out)
Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy
Shabbat, November 11, 2000


B’resheet (Genesis) 12:1-17:27

(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)

Let’s begin with the opening blessing for the Torah:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-O’lam,

asher bachar banu m’kol ha-amim,

v’natan lanu eht Torah-to.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you, O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have selected us from among all the peoples,

and has given us your Torah.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

Welcome to Parashat Lekh L’kha.  Please allow the Ruach HaKodesh to have his way in you, as you study the pages of HaShem’s wonderful Word this hour!

We have finally come to a place in the Torah where the narrative will begin to slow down a bit. By way of retrospect, the Torah has spent the last eleven chapters covering everything from the creation account, to the fall of man, the birth of the first offspring, the first death, the first atonement, a series of lengthy genealogical lists, the world deluge, the Tower of Bavel, and the first official, biblical covenant between man and HaShem. All of this information covers a time period of about 2000 years! Yet in comparison, the story we are about to embark on centers around one man and his journey to become the father of HaShem’s chosen heritage of people, the Jewish Nation. His story unfolds before us, and the Torah uses the next 13 chapter to do so, while the time period covered is approximately one twentieth of that of the previously mentioned material!

What is HaShem trying to convey to us here? Are the details surrounding the beginnings of humanity less important to him, than one man from Ur? Of course not. What I believe our God is teaching us is that sometimes his Word "majors on the majors, and minors on the minors". In other words, while at times we would hope for more information on certain aspects of the Torah, HaShem has graciously provided us with exactly the right amount needed to live our lives according to his instructions, and remain pleasing to him.

Having said all of that, interestingly enough, by using a computer assisted word search, I have discovered that the name "Abram", whom I’ll call "Avram" from this time forward, is found 46 times in the whole Bible! Using the same resources, the name "Abraham", whom I’ll call "Avraham" from this time forward, is found 216 times in the Bible! These numbers do reflect the possibility of another man, other than the main character of our parashah, bearing the same name. I didn’t factor that possibility out. Yet surely, most (if not all; someone else may do the math for me) surely refer to our very own Avraham! So let’s read about this "Father of many nations". Our portion gets its name from the opening statement from HaShem. This is also primarily where we will park our teaching this week.

The Torah says in chapter 12, verses 1-3,

Vayomer ADONAI el-Avram "Lekh l’kha me'artsecha u’mimo-ladetecha umibeyt avicha el-ha'arets asher ar'eka. Ve'e'escha legoy-gadol va'avarechecha va'agadelah shemecha veheyeh berachah. Va'avarechah mevarachecha umekalelecha a'or venivrechu vecha kol mishpechot ha'adamah."

(Now ADONAI said to Avram, "Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.")

The opening monologue from HaShem, containing both directives and promises, is packed with some very important facts, which affect every man, woman, and child who will be born form here on out! To be sure, it still affects everyone today! How so? Allow me to conduct a word study.

We have been taught many times over (hopefully), that verse three is referring to the ultimate blessing that Avram would be, once his ultimate righteous heir was born. The Torah makes it perfectly clear that this righteous heir is non other than Yeshua (ben-Yosef) ben-Dahvid, ben-Avraham (see Matthew chapter one)! But our usual sermons focus on the latter part of that verse. I want to call our attention to the first part of verse three.

"I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Here HaShem promises to "bless" those who "bless" Avram. The Hebrew wording used both times for "bless" is "the root word "barakh", and it literally means to bow the knee. This promise is understood to be extending to his offspring as well, the Jewish People. Moreover, we have seen that many peoples of the world, symbolically and physically, have blessed Avram. To be sure, we don’t hear of many individuals actually "cursing" Avram or his offspring, the Jews (a few unmentioned exceptions do exist). From HaShem’s perspective, he has set up a divine sort of "cause and effect" here: if you (a non-Jew) bless Avram, or his offspring, then in return, I will bless you.

But the really interesting fact is found in the Hebrew word translated as "curse". In the first instance, the word translated "curse" (in our above translation of the CJB by David H. Stern) comes from the root Hebrew word "arar". Here is what Strong’s Lexicon and Concordance have to say about this word:

                    0779 ‘arar {aw-rar’}: a primitive root - curse 62, bitterly 1; (total usage: 63)

to curse…. cursed be he (participle used as in curses)…. to be cursed, cursed…. lay under a curse, put a curse on…. to be made a curse, be cursed (adaptation mine)
This is some heavy language! Especially when we realize that this is the Sovereign Creator of the Universe speaking this promise here! But the second word translated as "curse" is surprisingly not the same as the first! The original word this time is taken from the root word "kalal". In fact, in our current parashah (portion), chapter 16:4 translates this word as "contempt", when referring to the attitude that Sarai (Avram’s wife) had towards her handmaid Hagar. Here is what Strong’s Lexicon and Concordance have to say about that word:
07043 ‘qalal {kaw-lal’}: a primitive root - curse 39, swifter 5, light thing 5, vile 4, lighter 4, despise 3, abated 2, ease 2, light 2, lighten 2, slightly 2, misc 12; (total usage: 82)

be slight, be swift, be trifling, be of little account, be light…. be abated (of water)…. to be trifling, to be swift, show oneself swift…. to appear trifling, be too trifling, be insignificant…. to be lightly esteemed…. to make despicable…. to curse…. to be cursed…. to make light, lighten…. to treat with contempt, bring contempt or dishonour…. to shake…. to whet…. to shake oneself, be moved to and fro" (adaptation mine)

I hope that this list is a shocker. We usually find ourselves thinking, "As a believer in Messiah Yeshua, I would never meaningfully curse Avram or his offspring, the Jews! I understand that my spiritual heritage is forever bound up in their lineage!" I, as a rabbi, hope that this is similar to what every well-meaning Christian might say. But the shocker is that according to the word used for "curse", many well-meaning believers are unknowingly "cursing" Avram and his offspring! If I were to translate this verse along its literal lines, it would read something like this:

"I will [bless] those who [bless] you, but I will [curse] anyone who [despises, makes of little account, lightly esteems, thinks insignificant of] you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Wow! That seems to explain the verse in a whole different light! And so it should! For that is what the verse is alluding to. Allow me to elaborate.

In the fourth century, when the organized Church decided to divorce herself from her spiritual mother, Judaism, she unwittingly planted the seeds of anti-Judaism. Anti-Judaism is not to be confused with Anti-Semitism. The former is the dislike or disinterest of Jewishness and Judaism specifically; the latter is the dislike or disinterest in the Semitic race altogether. By the way, both falls into the category of violating the verse in examination and both are disrespectful to Father Avram and displeasing to HaShem! Over the centuries, this seedbed has blossomed into a full-grown weed called Replacement Theology. This heretical belief fosters the mistaken idea that "HaShem gave up on the Jews when they corporately rejected his Son Yeshua, and instead, adopted the newborn Gentile Church as his chosen people. The unfortunate Jews were left to face the curses of the Torah, and the Wrath of an angry Father, while the Church inherited (spiritually of course) most of the blessings and promises to the Jews, as pronounced in the Torah." Fortunately, this theological framework is neither blatantly taught to Christians, openly favored by the same, nor even endorsed by HaShem!

But the damage has been done. Bad habits are hard to change. Our Christian community today is lacking of real spiritual depth, many so-called believers have a superficial relationship with Yeshua, and we owe a significant part of all of this to the teachings that have been passed down from one anti-Jewish generation to the next. Consequently, many Christians are either, passive and ignorant, when it comes to the Jewish people and communal support, or they are outright opposed to it! The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings (TaNaKH) have been relegated to the status of "Old Testament", while the Gospel enjoys the status of "New Testament". This has a way of causing the Jews to appear to be "old", "outdated", and "replaced", while the Church is defined as "new", "fresh", and "current". Is this not the prevalent attitude of many non-Jews within the Body today? "Your people prove difficult to positively influence, with regards to the Good News and Jesus", many quip. As a result, Jewish evangelism is weak, understaffed, or (in the few cases where churches have tried) eventually abandoned. Even if not intentional, this type of spiritual ignorance still feeds the Replacement Theological bias, in that, no one is made aware enough to put an end to it. In other words, this ignorance has gone on for far too long.

What can be done to undo some of the damage, and help repair the split between Avram’s offspring and the Church? Well, more information than I can post in this format is available to anyone who is serious in answering this timely and important question. I will only provide you with some groundwork: begin to pray about getting actively involved in the current move of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), to bring about a genuine, heartfelt love for Avram’s offspring, from the Church. Ask HaShem to reveal to you your heart, and to forgive you if you have unknowingly harbored these types of thoughts towards Avram’s offspring. God is still in the business of forgiveness! What my brothers according to the flesh need is to experience the mercy of HaShem, displayed through your honest concern and support! Ask HaShem to begin to reveal to you your spiritual heritage traced through faithful Avram and continuing through to his offspring, the Jewish People. You will find that according to Romans chapter 11 (just to name a good starting point), you also have some obligations to the "root that supports you".

I realize that some of what I said above is going to be hard to swallow. I also imagine that I have stepped on some toes. But I want to thank you for allowing me to take the time to address this very serious issue facing the Church and the synagogue. Even after this genuine call for restoration, some people will yet refuse to change their conventional way of thinking. To be sure, I don’t expect Gentiles to begin flooding my e-mail with letters asking me to forgive them for "lightly esteeming my people, the Jews". No, this type of heartfelt change is not accomplished overnight, and it can only make a difference if the Ruach HaKodesh is genuinely involved. As a rabbi, I expect that it will take some time for human nature to readjust its mindset, and line up with what HaShem wants us to be. After all, which one of us is perfect? Only the man Yeshua from Natzeret was. Please feel free to drop me a line, in care of this web site, if you still have questions or comments in this area. You may also e-mail me personally, my address is always provided at the end of this teaching.

Alas, I don’t want to purposefully neglect the remaining bulk of the current portion. To be sure, I challenge you to read and study the remainder of the piece on your own, and pull out meaningful nuggets for your personal growth. Space here does not allow me to cover all that I want to, on such topics as the identity of Malki-Tzedek of chapter 14, the circumcision details of chapter 15 and 17, or the consequences of Avram’s doubt, with regards to Hagar, in chapter 16. I will explain the importance of circumcision in the next parashah.

I do want to say this, however: because of the example that the Torah records Avram to have been, all of mankind can become one of his heirs! Because of his trusting faithfulness to HaShem’s command, he subsequently became the Father of the many righteous followers that would come after him. And last, but certainly not least, because of Avram’s trusting faithfulness, a single righteous man was born into his lineage. From this single righteous man, came the power to join the physical and/or spiritual family of the Creator of all men!

This man’s name is Yeshua!

God’s chosen family consists of those physically born into Avram’s lineage, who’s praise comes not from men, but from God, as well as those spiritually born into Avram’s lineage, who’s praise comes not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28, 29).

"Are you part of the family?"

The closing blessing is as follows:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-O’lam,

asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,

v’chay-yeh o’lam nata-b’tochenu.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have given us your Torah of truth,

and has planted everlasting life within our midst.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

"Shabbat Shalom!"

Y