This week, we get into the story of Abraham and his family. At this point, he is Abram, 75, a wealthy man who moved with his father Terah from Ur to Haran. He is married to Sarai, childless. Then the Lord tells him to leave Haran and go to “the land that I will show you” [like traditional corporate management – you go wherever and whenever you are assigned if you want to go up the ladder]. There he will be the progenitor of a great nation, a source of blessing for the world. So he and his household, including nephew Lot, go. Like Noah, Abram is doing what he is told without discussion. Unlike Noah, we are not told why Abram is chosen. Yes, you’ve likely heard the story about Abram wrecking the little idols in Terah’s idol shop and blaming it on the biggest idol to show Terah the silliness of idol worship, but that’s not in the Torah. We’re also not told why Terah wanted to go to Canaan but stopped in Haran. We are also not told how Lot and Sarai feel about going..somewhere.
Abram et al. arrive in Canaan and the next thing we read, they have to go to Egypt (where Abram passes Sarai off as his sister to save his life) because of a famine. Then they go back up to Canaan, through the Negev to Bethel, settle there, and split into two groups since they can’t all get along. Lot goes to the plain of the Jordan and settles near Sodom, while Abram moves again, to Hebron. Later, to rescue Lot, he gets involved in a local war with a bunch of kinglets, then washes his hands of them. When Abram is about 85, the Lord comes to him again, again promising him the land and many descendents to inhabit it, though Abram is still childless. Sarai, like Leah and Rachel later, gives him her handmaiden, Hagar, as a concubine. Once she is pregnant, there are major status issues (Hagar apparently doesn’t know “her place”), which Abram leaves to Sarai, so Hagar runs off but returns with Divine reassurance and gives birth to Ishmael. Thirteen years later, at 99, Abram has his pivotal communication from the Lord (17:1,2): “Walk in My ways and be blameless. 2 I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous.” This is meant to be a permanent covenant throughout the generations. Abram’s name is changed to Abraham (“father of multitudes”) and Sarai’s to Sarah (“princess”). He is now told specifically that he and Sarah will have a son, Isaac.
This Torah portion depicts a 24-year journey, from the initial command for Abram to leave Haran to his becoming Abraham and accepting the covenant with the Lord, symbolized by circumcision of the males of his household (brit milah= the covenant of circumcision), and being assured Sarai, now Sarah, will give birth to Abraham’s son. It is a winding journey, geographically and spiritually, during which Abram is told three times, in increasing detail, about his future offspring, the promised land, and, finally, the covenant, when, as Abraham, he finally becomes at least willing to consider that his heir will be neither his steward Eliezer nor Hagar’s son Ishmael, but a son born to a 90-year-old Sarah, as laughable as that seems.
An early Shabbat shalom,
By MK and BU, and their cute son. ‘When we figured out that a 2 bedroom apartment truly was no longer big enough now our little John’s little sister was born, we decided that for our relocation we required to a larger place with more bedrooms.
Our little boy heard us go over the idea of moving to a larger place, and then out of nowhere said: ‘This is not going to do us any good, not at all. She’d just follow us!’
By LA, about a different welcome in a fully furbished place. ‘I arrived at my new place in Rome. Just got my key, and the first thing I notice in my new apartment, is a yellow memo on my desk. It’s all in Italian- I didn’t speak a word. I managed to decipher the text via Google translate. It said: Now that you’ve managed to move, here is some important information. All your utilities are hooked up. Here are a couple of documents for you to sign. You must sign everything now, if not, we’ll shut off all of your utilities by tomorrow 12:00 noon.
Note these documents are blank. We will fill in the amounts after you signed them. We’ll send you copies later, so that you know what you signed.
It was 37 degrees Celcius out, I decided it was probably a good idea to ignore the choking heat, and to fill in the documents as ordered. The charges were not that bad after all….
Hire Movers, Trust Me!
My wife found this at http://www.usps.gov/moversnet/howtopacka2.html
She was looking at moving/packing sites today and, found this on the USPS site of all places! She found it humorous, stuck in among how to pack computers, china, appliances, etc.
1,000-gallon tank per hippo
1,000 gallons of water
Soothing hippo music
2 Aspirin (for you)
How to pack:
1. Fill your tank with 800 gallons of water. Start yesterday. Remember, a medium-sized hippo takes up at least 200 gallons. (Just out of curiosity, why do you have a hippo, anyway?)
2. Apply sedative. Take two Aspirin.
3. Hold it, hold it – put the hippo in the tank, first. Start with soothing hippo music, followed by a large winch and crane.
4. Now go relax in a hot bath before the forklift arrives.
WAIVER: We in no way advocate moving a hippo or any animal without the express advice and consent of your local vet or zoo keeper. If you’d like advice from a veterinarian on moving with pets click here.
Parashat Lech Lecha On 1 Foot
… This reminds of a story that I suspect I may have told many years ago in this column, one that, even if I did, bears repeating.
One day, a Jew was introduced to another Jew name Sean Fergusson who spoke with a Yiddish accent. “Sean Fergusson?” the first Jew asked. “Vi kumt a yid tsu Sean Fergusson?”
“It’s like this,” the second Jew said. “My name was Moshke Rabinowitz. The first time I arrived at Ellis Island, I failed the eye test, so the doctors sent me back to Europe. There my eyes were treated and cured, and I decided to try again. But what would happen, I thought, if I turned up a second time as the same Moshke Rabinowitz? They’d already know me and send me back again. And so I decided to call myself Yankl Katzenstein. Still, what if someone recognized me? And so there I was, standing in line at Ellis Island and getting more and more nervous all the time, and when it’s finally my turn I’m so flustered that I can’t remember my new name. The immigration official asks me what it is, and I can’t think of it; it’s simply escaped me. ‘Oy, kh’hob shoyn fargesn!’ I say. ‘Sean Fergusson?’ the official repeats, and writes it down on the form.”
In Yiddish, of course, kh’hob shoyn fargesn means “I’ve forgotten.” Is it a true story? I leave that for you to ponder. As one says in Italian, “Si non è vero, è ben trovato,” which roughly translates as, “If it didn’t happen, it should have.”
Comment from Abiebaby Fri. Mar 14, 2008
The Sean Ferguson story reminds me of the immigrant Jew Goldberg, opening a saloon in an Irish neighborhood in NYC. He appeared in court seeking a name change from Goldberg to O’Reilly for “business reasons,” which was granted. A few months later he was before the same judge to change his name to Kelly. The curious judge asked why the second name change. The petitioner said, “Because all my customers ask what my name was before it was O’Reilly.”
[Actually, while names were mangled at Ellis Island, they weren’t deliberately entirely changed there. Usually, immigrants who chose made the change upon naturalization. IGP.]
(#578) A Trip to the Old Country [one of my favorites. IGP]
Benjamin, a young Talmud student who had left Israel for London some years earlier, returns to visit his family.
“But Benjamin, where is your beard?” asks his mother upon seeing him.
“Mother,” he replies, “In London, nobody wears a beard.”
“But at least you keep the Sabbath?” his mother asks.
“Mother, business is business. In London, everybody works on the Sabbath.”
“But kosher food you still eat?” asks his mother.
“Mother, in London, it is very difficult to keep kosher.”
Then silence, whilst his elderly mother gives thought to what she has just heard. Then she leans over and whispers in his ear, “Benjamin, tell me, are you still circumcised?”
(#1291) The bris
The bris is over. Baby Sam has been circumcised and the rabbi, family and friends have all left the house. Moshe and Sadie are quietly sitting in their lounge when their 4 year old son Benny comes crying into the room. Sadie asks him what is wrong.
Benny sobs, “In his speech, Rabbi Bloom said he wants us brought up in a Jewish home – and I want to stay with you guys!”
Q: Why did the mohel retire?
A: He just couldn’t cut it anymore