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Summary of Parshat  "Lech Lecha"

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

Parshat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1­17:27) begins with Hashem's call to Abraham* to leave his homeland and his father's house, his position of status and his prosperity, to travel to the land that Hashem will show him. Shortly after arriving with his wife Sarah* and nephew Lot in the land of Israel, they discover it to be ravaged by a horrible famine, so they descend to Egypt for a temporary stay. The immoral Egyptians immediately capture Sarah, whom Abraham had identified as his sister, and take her to the Egyptian king. Hashem responds by afflicting the king and his household with a debilitating plague until he releases her, at which point they return to the land of Israel. When Abraham's and Lot's shepherds begin to quarrel, the two decide to part ways, with Lot choosing the fertile plains of Sodom as his portion.

The Torah then describes the infamous war between the four kings and the five kings, during which Lot is taken captive. Abraham responds by miraculously defeating the previously victorious four kings and saving his nephew, while refusing to take any of the honor or the spoils of war for himself. Hashem reassures Abraham that He is by his side, and promises that his descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky. Hashem then enters into the highly symbolic Brit Bain HaB'tarim (the Covenant Between the Parts) with Abraham, promising that his children will inherit the land of Israel, but not before being exiled into a lengthy servitude. Because she had no children, Sarah gives her maidservant Hagar to Abraham as a wife, and their son Yishmael is born. Years later, Hashem changes Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah, and instructs him in the mitzvah of brit milah (circumcision). The portion concludes as Abraham, at the age of 99, circumcises himself and his son Yishmael, along with the other male members of his household.

*Although their names are still Abram and Sarai throughout most of Parshat Lech Lecha, we (and many of the commentators) refer to them by their more familiar names, Abraham and Sarah, names Hashem gives them at the end of the portion.


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