ABRAHAM AND ANTHRAX
Lech Lecha is a remarkably busy Torah portion. Among other things, Abraham rescues his brother Lot, deploying special forces in the middle of the night.
Lech Lecha is a remarkably busy Torah portion. Among other things, Abraham rescues his brother Lot, deploying special forces in the middle of the night as it says, "he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan. And he decided himself against them by night, he and his servants, and smote them."
While this is an interesting section of the Torah portion, the most consistent theme of this portion is Hashem’s promise to Abraham. The promise that the land of Israel will be his.
This past week there have been Anthrax scares and attacks, the first official use of ground forces troops in Afghanistan, the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi and the Israeli retaliation for that attack.
The most striking of these incidents, in relation to the Torah portion, is the assassination of Ze'evi. The Tourism Minister of Israel was an extremely controversial character who espoused the transfer of Palestinians from Israel -- just as Jews were transferred from Arab and Muslim countries 50 years ago.
Ze'evi had an interesting past, including leading a Beduin contingent in the ’67 war and securing land for them to live on after the war. Ze'evi's ideas weren't very popular, but he stuck to them in an incredible dismissal of realism. The genesis of his ideas lies in this Torah portion. At his funeral, his son, Yiftach-Palmach said: "You who killed my father, you temporary residents of Canaan. I tell you, we are here to stay because it belongs to us."
Yiftach-Palmach called the Palestinians Canaanites, and wants to deal with these Canaanites the way they were dealt with in ancient times. While it appears obvious that the Palestinians are an enemy -- their religious and political leaders call for the death of the Jewish people regularly (see www.memri.org) -- many questions remain about how they should be dealt with.
The Torah identifies many enemies who represent different challenges confronting Israel. In this Torah portion alone there are three: the Canaanites, the four kings, and Sodom and Gemorrah. In the rest of the Torah, there are five additional major enemies mentioned including Esau, Laban, Egypt at the time of our enslavement, Amalak, the Moabites, and the Phillistines. We can examine our interactions with these enemies to shed some light on what should be done in our current situation. A core element will be revealed throughout -- Hashem plays a major role in each situation. While there are actions we need to take, from tricking enemies like Laban to warring with enemies like Canaan to simply sending away enemies like Ishmael -- the core of our claim to the land of Israel is based on, and protected by, our relationship with God.
The Torah states: "And I will establish my covenant between Me and three and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.' And God said unto Abraham: 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep My covenant, thou and thy seed after thee throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you ... And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant."
Yiftach-Palmach is right. The land is ours. But as we see here, that is only the case if we keep our side of the bargain. Only if we foster our relationship with Hashem and maintain our fundamental practices. We have to do other things to maintain our inheritance. We have to deal with enemies like Ishmael, Amalek and Esav in real world ways. But without Hashem we would never be able to deal with those threats. Hashem rescues us and grants us success. But we have to keep our side of the bargain.
The core of our relationship with God and the land of Israel lies in circumcision -- it lies in the creation of new life and the rituals surrounding that. This week’s Torah portion shows us that ours is not a pact of death, but of life. It is our enemies who deal in death, worship death, honor those who needlessly throw their lives away and see fear of death as the greatest weakness a man can have.
This is not our way. We should celebrate life. And we should ensure that from circumcision onwards our lives and the lives of our families are fundamentally Jewish.