Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasha #3: Lekh L’kha (Get yourself out) Genesis 12:1-17:27
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40: 27-41:16
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:1-8; Romans 3:19-5:6; Galatians 3:15-18; 5:1-6; Colossians 2:11-15; Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 7: 1-19; 11: 8-12
And G-d said to Abram; “Go out from your country, from your birthplace, from the home of your father, to the land which I will show you…(Genesis 12:1)
G-d appears to and delivers a Divine directive to Abram (later know as Avraham) and tells him to leave his father’s house, land and everything of any importance to him – to go to a place unknown to him. Avraham is sanctified (set-apart) by G-d. He is called out, chosen, and Avraham demonstrates his faith by obeying YHVH Elohim. We are also called out; physically with an inextricable connection to the spiritual. Avraham physically and spiritually left his father’s house and all of the associated traditions, including idol worship. Although we may not be required to leave our physical environment, we all have to leave behind our previous lifestyle and even loved ones when we are set-apart (sanctified) by G-d. When we are called and chosen we step out in faith on an unknown journey not knowing what awaits us along that journey. But as we travel the King’s Highway, we learn to love and trust our G-d if that is the desire of our hearts and minds.
Why was Abram singled out from all the humanity on earth? For that matter why were we? The Torah is silent on this question regarding Abram, but Midrashic literature tells us of Abram’s spiritual quest and eventual discovery of the One true G-d. Avram as he was originally known translated to “exalted father.” There must have been something special about him even in his secular life. Indeed, he followed G-d without question. This had to be difficult considering he lived in an idolatrous society. He was the ninth generation from Shem, who was one of Noach’s sons. The name “Shem” means name. If we recall Genesis 9:24, we read that Noach blessed Shem saying “Blessed be Adonai, the G-d of Shem; Kena’an will be their servant.” Who are the Kena’ani? These are the descendants of Ham who Noach cursed in Gen. 9:24: “Cursed be Kena’an; he will be a servant of servants to his brothers.” We know that Yishma’el was born of an Egyptian woman, so his genealogy takes a turn away from the G-dly line. Here is where the battle between Israel and the Arabs is foretold by G-d in Gen: 16:12 as G-d speaks of Yishma’el” “ He will be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, living his life at odds with all his kinsmen.” Of course, the line of Isaac is Israel. I Gen. 21:21 G-d assures Avraham “Listen to everything Sarah says to you, because it is your descendants through Yitz’chak who will be counted. But I will also make a nation from the son of the slave-girl, since he (Yishma’el) is descended from you.’ In Gen.17:7 G-d establishes a covenant with Avraham that will last throughout all generations; “ I am establishing my covenant between me and you, alsong woth your descendants after you, generation after generation, as an everlasting covenant. To be G-d for you and for your descendants after you. I will give you and your descendants after you the land in which you are now foreigners, all the land of Kena’an, as a permanent possession; and I will be their G-d.” So we see that Yitz’chak is the son of promise again, and that the land once ruled by the descendants of Yishma’el will be given over to the descendants of Yitz’chak. The descendants of Yishma’el including the Edomites who now inhabit Rome will be destroyed (Jer. 49:18 and the Book of Obadiah) as two of many references to this subject). All we need do is follow Yishma’el’s line to understand the process and the reason for all the confrontation in the world today. Yishma’el is recognized as an important prophet and patriarch of Islam. Muslims believe was the firstborn of Abraham, born to him from his second wife Hagar. Although this is true, Yishma’el is not the son of promise. They do not understand that although the typical hierarchy at that time was to pass the role of leader, prophet, priest to the firstborn, G-d chose a different order in several cases. The examples in scripture reinforce the fact that the G-d of Israel is soverign and can change the natural order of the universe, or the established social order of man any way He wishes for His glory. Now to the introduction of the concept of human blessing.
In Genesis 12:2 we read:
“I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great; and you will be a blessing.”
This incident in the life of Abram describes in Torah a great new force in the world, the force of bracha, or blessedness. How can a person be a blessing? We become a blessing by reflecting G-d’s Torah in our lives as lights unto the world. In Hebrew, the word bracha means a spring, a source that provides water from its own reserves. The Torah refers to spring water as “living water,” because a spring is perceived to be supplying energy that its own life generates. In the same way we refer to Yahshua haMashiach as “living waters” and in the same way we acknowledge that YHVH Elohim is the source of all our blessings. We establish a connection to Him as the inexhaustible living source of all being. YHVH Elohim, the source, provides a pipeline that provides a fresh flow of creative energy from the Divine. Every blessing acknowledges that G-d is the inexhaustible living source on which we can draw.
A bracha is a reminder of the fact that G-d not only created the world, but that He also takes and active interest in it management. In effect, it says “G-d, You have demonstrated that it is Your desire to be involved in Your creation by instructing us to follow Your wishes as expressed in Your Torah, the Written and the Living.
Unfortunately, mankind is devoid of bracha consciousness. We look to economics to prosper and economics does not recognize the power of the bracha. The world of economics limits every person to the possibilities that are provided by one’s land, family, and family’s house because these are the basic resources available to each person. We care not self-made people although many claim that status.
G-d ordered Abram to step into the world of bracha and break with the world of economics, of self- centered attitudes and looking only within the glass ceiling to which our physical lives operate. Abram’s connection to G-d becomes a limitless source of energy on which he is always free to draw. He “breaks the glass ceiling.” So how could Abram be a blessing? He was a new source of blessing that we can learn from and claim if we but develop the trust and faith in YHVH/Yahshua and demonstrated by Avraham. This is mentioned in the Book of Hebrews 11:8, “ By trusting (an action verb), Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which G-d would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya’akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder was G-d.” This city is Jerusalem.
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7: 1-8
7 1 The Cohen hagadol asked, “Are these accusations true?” 2 and Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The G-d of glory appeared to Avraham avinu in Mesopotamia before he lived in Charan 3 and said to him, ‘Leave your land and your family, and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 So he left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Charan. After his father died, G-d made him move to this land where you are living now. 5 He gave him no inheritance in it, not even space for one foot; yet he promised to give it to him as a possession and to his descendants after him, even though at the time he was childless. 6 What G-d said to him was, ‘Your descendants will be aliens in a foreign land, where they will be in slavery and oppressed for four hundred years. 7 But I will judge the nation that enslaves them,’ G-d said, ‘and afterwards they will leave and worship me in this place.’ 8 And he gave him ‘brit’-milah. So he became the father of Yitzchak and did his b’rit-milah on the eighth day, and Yitzchak became the father of Ya’akov, and Ya‘akov became the father of the Twelve Patriarchs.
In the greater section of this Scripture Stephen has been charged with teaching against Moshe, G-d, the Temple and the Torah (6:11–14)in other words, against everything for Judaism stands.. Demonstrating that the best defense is a good offense, he indicts the religious leaders after the manner of the Prophets, saying it is they who have abandoned each one of these four sacred trusts.
Addressing them as fellow Jews he calls them brothers and fathers. Stephen, follows Kefa (2:29, 3:17), speaking as one of the Jewish family. His critique is no more anti-Semitic than those of his predecessors the Prophets.
“The G-d of glory.” His first words refute the charge that he has “spoken blasphemously … against G-d” (6:11), and his regard for the one G-d is demonstrated consistently throughout his speech.
Avraham avinu, “Abraham, our father,” is a phrase common in Jewish discourse.
In Mesopotamia, in “Ur of the Chaldees” (Genesis 15:7), not in the better-known city, also called Ur, at the mouth of the Euphrates River, which is not in Mesopotamia.
In verse 3 Stephen quotes Genesis 12:1, words recorded as spoken by G-d to Avraham in Charan but presumably also spoken in Ur.
Stephen quotes, “After his father died”. We have to ask ourselves was Stephen biblically uninformed? Genesis 11:26 seems to say that Terach, Avraham’s father, was 70 when Avraham was born; and Genesis 12:4 clearly says that Avraham was 75 when he left Charan; these data imply that Terach was 145 at the time. But Genesis 11:32 says that Terach died at 205, sixty years later.
There have been two explanations of the inconsistency have been offered:
(1) Genesis 11:26 may mean Terach was 70 not when Avraham was born but when his brother Nachor was born. It is not implausible that Nachor was considerably older than Avraham, since his granddaughter Rivkah married Avraham’s son Yitzchak.
(2) Stephen was using a text of the Pentateuch in which Terach’s age was given as 145, not 205. The Samaritan text of the Pentateuch does say 145, so we are not dealing with a deus ex machina[i]. Moreover, there are scholars, Avraham Spero and Jakob Jervell among them, who believe Stephen was a Samaritan. This would also explain verse 16, which says that Avraham was buried in Sh’khem, since this too follows Samaritan tradition. It explains a possible anti-Temple tendency in vv. 47–50 (compare Yn 4:20–22) and gives logic to placing the story of the spread of the Gospel to Shomron in the immediately following passage (8:4–26). At worst, if under pressure Stephen erred, his errors would be what are known in Judaism as ta’uyot b’tom-lev, honest mistakes.
The first century Alexandrian Jew Philo, in De Migratione Abrahami, also speaks of Avraham’s leaving Charan after Terach’s death.
Stephen paints a picture of the majority in Israel refusing to honor those whom G-d chose to bring them the salvation he had promised them—especially Yosef (vv. 9–16), who was recognized by Pharaoh, a Gentile, but not by his own brothers, and Moshe (vv. 17–44).
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (40:27)
In this Parasha, G-d explains the path of life that Avraham must take. G-d tells Avraham to leave everything behind and to follow G-d. Avraham has great confidence in G-d; that confidence enables him to defeat the neighboring kings in battle.
In the Haftarah, the prophet Yesha’yahu consoles the people who think G-d has deserted them. The prophet explains that what makes the Jewish people successful is their confidence in G-d. As long as the people are confident of their relationship with G-d, they shall overcome all obstacles.
The Midrash explains how Abram came to believe in G-d.
When Abram was three years old, he looked up at the sky one night and saw the stars. He was so overcome by this sight that he assumed the stars were G-d, so he bowed to them. Then, in the morning, the stars disappeared, and the sun rose. Abram then thought that the sun was more powerful than the stars, so he bowed to it.
At night, the sun sank and up came the moon. So, Abram decided that if the moon could make the sun disappear, it must be more powerful than the son, so he bowed to it.
In the morning, when the sun rose again, Abram realized that the sun, moon, and the stars were part of a cycle. Something greater must be controlling them. It was then that he realized that G-d works “behind the scenes” to make the world function.
When G-d changes Avram’s name to Avraham, He tells Avraham that he will be av hamon, “the father of many.” The gematria for this phrase is 104. This phrase is used twice during the conversation, so together the numeric value is 208.
The gematria of Yitzhak, Avraham’s son, is also 208. From this we see a hint that the chosen nation is going to stem from Yitzhak and not Yishma’el.
[i] deus ex machina an improbable character or unconvincing event used to resolve a plot. In ancient Greek and Roman theater, a god was introduced to resolve a complicated plot.
Rabbi Tamah Davis