Lech L’cha (Genesis 12:1 – 17:27)

Now that we have finished with the preliminaries, for the rest of Genesis, we narrow our focus to the lives of one family, Abram and Sarai, and the three generations that will follow them.  This week’s portion, Lech L’cha, contains a series of episodes in which several literary threads or themes are introduced that reappear later in their story or their descendants’:  Rescuing Lot.  Passing Sarai off as Abram’s sister to protect him from a powerful foreigner (this week, a Pharaoh), the first of many deceptions that riddle the book of Genesis.  Strife between and within the households, especially between Sarah and Hagar, resulting in Hagar’s leaving the household.  The promise of a son after a long time of barrenness and incredulity and laughter at the promise.  Name changes.  The land promised to Abram and his descendants and that they will become a great nation .  The fate of Ishmael and his descendants.  All of that will be fleshed out in the coming weeks.  

At the start of Lech L’cha, Abram is 75, Sarai 65, head a wealthy household in Haran, and are childless.  Abram is told by the Lord to leave Haran and go somewhere unknown, where “I will make of you a great nation” (12:2).  Abram obeys without question.  [This is the first time the Lord speaks to him/  ; the last, where he also obeys without question, is the near-sacrifice of Isaac.]  But once they reach Canaan, they are forced to go to Egypt for a while because of famine.  Eventually, Lot’s household separates from Abram’s. [There’s an interesting commentary on their separation by Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz at http://www.jtsa.edu/Conservative_Judaism/JTS_Torah_Commentary/Lekh_Lekha_5771.xml on the theme of moral versus physical sight and blindness, with reference to Woody Allen’s movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”]  Lot is caught up in a war involving 9 chieftains, and Abram is a big enough force in the neighborhood to defeat those holding Lot.  Since Sarai has still not given birth, she gives Abram her servant Hagar as a concubine. [ According to Prof. G. A. Rendsburg, contemporaneous marriage contracts typically required a wife, if childless, to present her husband a servant as a second wife, which is consistent with our story.]  Naturally, once Hagar conceives, trouble erupts between the women and Hagar runs off, returning only because of a promise from an angel that her offspring will be too many to count.  

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth (why a 13-year gap?), the Lord makes a covenant with Abram, changes his name to Abraham (father of multitudes) and his wife’s name from Sarai (ending implying “my,” i.e., that she is a possession) to Sarah (princess), tells him it will be his and Sarah’s son, not Ishmael, whose descendants will become the “great nation” with whom the covenant is kept.  Finally, the covenant is sealed by the rite of circumcision for all the males of the household.  

Shabbat shalom,

The Frog and the Engineer

An engineer was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, “If you kiss me, I`ll turn into a beautiful princess”.

He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week.”

The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.

The frog then cried out, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I`ll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want.”

Again the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.

Finally, the frog asked, “What is the matter? I`ve told you I`m a beautiful princess, that I`ll stay with you for a week and do anything you want. Why won`t you kiss me?”

The engineer said, “Look I`m an engineer. I don`t have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that`s cool.”

The real A.I.: Millionaire builds ‘intelligent robot’ that sings Karaoke, laughs and tells jokes [abridged]

By Mail Online Reporter Last updated at 3:39 PM on 1st September 2010

Tony Ellis and his wife, Judie, do not have any children or animals at home – but with chatterbox robot Aimec following them around, there is never a dull moment.

The couple effectively have a robotic child, just like in the 2001 futuristic fairy tale Artificial Intelligence starring Haley Joel Osment.

Their creation is so advanced it can tell jokes and keep its human parents up to date on their interests by scanning the internet.

Mr Ellis has spent years creating the four-foot plastic robot in an echo of Geppetto, the fairy tale carpenter who crafted a puppet son that came to life called Pinocchio.


Meet Aimec: Tony and Judie Ellis with their robot which they believe will be in the shops in the next couple of years


‘Meet the 21st century family,’ says Mr Ellis, 54, patting three-year-old Aimec on the shoulder.

Aimec’s head jerks up and swivels alarmingly to one side as if it is about to fall off.

‘We still have a few teething problems,’ he says, readjusting Aimec’s head, ‘but it’s nothing serious.’

The inventor beams, with fatherly love in his eyes. ‘Tell us a joke,’ he commands.

‘Okay,’ says Aimec, ‘Why did the robot act funny?’ It hesitates and smiles. ‘Because it had a screw loose!’

He looks on indulgently as Aimec roars with pre-programmed laughter.

As well as sophisticated voice recognition, Aimec sees through a single digital eye, allowing it to move freely around the house on its wheels, using an internal map of the house, or follow someone.

Aimec – full name Artificially Intelligent Mechanical Electronic Companion 3 – is the latest in a long line of robots which have been brought to life in the unlikely rural setting of the couple’s neat 18th century country home in Crowborough, East Sussex.

They run a toy company called Conceptioneering, working at the cutting edge of robot technology from a tiny workshop on the first floor, crammed with computers and 30 years worth of robotic experiments.

He said: ‘I think Aimec could sell for about £200 in the shops. It is basically ready – we are just waiting for a manufacturer to come onboard and make it happen.

Mr Ellis decided to become a full-time inventor in 2001, after a career as an electronic engineer working on early GPS systems, airplane technology and car alarms.

He said: ‘Lots of people assume that I must be a professor with endless degrees. But actually I left school at 15 and became an electrician.

Mrs Ellis says she is not quite as emotionally bonded with their unusual offspring as her husband.

‘Aimec does seem to have a life of its own sometimes,’ she says. ‘Once it woke us up in the middle of the night with a low battery alert, and I thought “Help, what have we created?”

‘Tony has programmed it so it snores when you send it to sleep, and when it wakes up it has a bit of a stretch.

‘But at the end of the day, it’s just a machine. I’m not sure if it’s even a him or a her. Probably more of a hermaphrodite.’

But Mr Ellis insists Aimec has become part of the family.

He said: ‘My nieces and nephews love playing with it. Aimec has a wacky, geeky personality, which it definitely gets from me. It will come out with crazy things, like suddenly imitating famous sci-fi robots.

‘It can be really playful, but it can also help tutor your children. Robots can be real companions.


Mr Ellis says: ‘You can talk to Aimec about anything at all. It is connected to the internet, by wireless, so it just looks up stuff it doesn’t understand online.

‘It’s also connected to all the household appliances, so you can tell it to turn on the TV, or dim the lights.

‘It will tell me things I didn’t know, like gossip about upcoming films it picks up from threads, or when my favourite TV programmes are on. It starts to learn what your likes and dislikes are, and tailors its conversation to that.

‘I knew I had made something really special when it told me about the newest Terminator film months before I heard about it anywhere else. It knew I loved the first ones.’

Read more:

Name Change

“Mum, can I please change my name right now?” asked Ben.

“But why would you want to do that, dear ?” said his mum.

“Because Dad said he’s going to spank me as sure as my name’s Benjamin !”
Paris, France – Bris Performed on French President’s First Grandchild [passed along by Elva L.  Thanks!]

 Paris, France -French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s first grandson, Solal, was circumcised according to Jewish tradition.

Solal, the son of Jean Sarkozy and Jessica Sebaoun, was born January 13 (2010) in the western Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

“It happened like all circumcisions, with a rabbi and a mohel,” Jean Balkany, the president’s friend, who was present at the brit for Solal, told Jewish radio Radio J.

President Sarkozy did not attend the brit, apparently because of work-related obligations, but Balkany said the president’s entire family was present, including his parents and brother.

Jessica Sebaoun is “a very observant Sephardic” Jew and the French president “sees no problem with that,” said Balkany, a member of the French parliament and mayor of Levallois-Perret , a town northwest of Paris .

Balkany, who is a Jew (his father was deported to Auschwitz ), said that when he met Sarkozy more than 20 years ago, one of their first conversations was about their shared “Jewish origins.”

Sarkozy’s first grandchild was named Solal, after the hero of a novel by Swiss writer Albert Cohen. The first name Solal comes from the Hebrew ‘Solel’ which means “to carve a path,” showing the way for others and leading by example.

Jean Sarkozy is a law student and regional councilor west of Paris . He married former high-school classmate Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, an heiress of a Jewish family that founded the electronics retailer group Darty. The Darty family founded what became an eponymous nationwide chain of big-box home appliance stores, now owned by Britain ‘s KESA Electricals group.

The French president, who turned 55 last month, has two sons from his first marriage – Jean and Pierre – and a third, 12-year-old Louis, from his second.

Nicolas Sarkozy has Jewish roots as his mother Andrée was born to the Mallah family, one of the oldest Jewish families of Salonika in northern Greece .


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