Halacha for Friday 12 Cheshvan 5781 October 30 2020

Parashat Lech Lecha - [Learning from Avram to Follow Hashem’s Instructions Through Life, Without Knowing the Exact End Game, and the Benefits that this May Bring]

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

This Shabbat we read the command, which Hashem gave Avram, “Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you”  (Bereishit 12:1).

We should be aware that Avram our father was no youngster, rather he was 75 years old, venturing into the unknown. Moreover, he was not alone, his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, all his belongings “as well as the people they had gathered in Charan” (Bereishit 12:5), were all travelling into the unknown, “to the land that I will show you”.

It is astonishing, why did Hashem not reveal to Avram from the outset the place’s identity ? It is difficult enough to leave, his fixed abode, birthplace, his friends and to what he is accustomed to, and additionally, to travel to an unidentified place. This is exceedingly challenging and compounded when the person is not travelling alone but with responsibility to so many others too. So, why not make it more bearable and reveal the location?

This question is raised in the Yalkut Shimoni and so it is stated there, “And why didn’t He reveal it to him? In order to make it special to him and to reward him for every step”. This means that it is incomparable when a person knows the purpose of what is required from them, in contradistinction to a person who doesn’t know the purpose of what is being asked of him. The difference between these two scenarios is as far as the heavens and earth are apart. And so are their comparable rewards based on the enormity of the test.

For sure Hashem could have revealed to Avram his final destination but then it would have been an easier test and in turn, his reward much less. In contrast when Avram didn’t know his final destination, it was a much harder test and as such, his reward was immeasurably greater.

And so Avram never asked to where he was travelling, but rather “and Avram went as Hashem had directed him” (12:4) and so Hashem assured him, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (12:2-3).

Not only once has it happened to us that when we come to follow the paths of the Torah and awe of Hashem that we stand in a test and stumble at the hurdles or doubt ourselves, unable to decide what to do or unsure of what the end will be. For example, our workplace isn’t quite right, what education to give our children and similar examples. We must know that this is man’s test and man’s task is to do just what the Torah requires according to the halachah. Even though it is murky to us what the final outcome may be. This is the essence of the concept “to the land that I will show you”. But if we fulfil the concept “as Hashem directed him”, then we are assured that “you shall become a blessing”.

This teaches us that it’s not what we think should be done in order to succeed but rather that the blessing may only be found in Hashem’s hand.

It is related that a shamash of a Bet Kenesset served in a stellar way even though he was illiterate. After some time, the parnasim decided that the Bet Kenesset must provide written reports and so the shamash must learn to read and write. Otherwise he will be fired. The shamash who was no youngster attempted to learn these new skills but was unsuccessful and under great duress, had to leave relinquish his role.

Some time passed and he turned his hand to the timber trade. After some time, he was incredibly successful and was the largest timber merchant in the area. One day he was closing a huge deal with the trade secretary of another country. When he signed the contract, he signed with his fingerprint. The trade secretary was in shock and asked how is this possible. “You are the largest timber merchant, and yet you are illiterate?” The trader smiled and said, “If I knew how to read and write I would still just be the shamash of the synagogue!”

Shabbat Shalom!

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

What Constitutes a “Permanent” or “Professional” Knot

In previous Halachot we have explained that is forbidden to tie a “permanent” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which is not meant to be untied in the near future. It is likewise forbidden to tie a “professional” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which requires some skill to tie. Howev......

Read Halacha

Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Tying and Untying on Shabbat

The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists the thirty-nine forms of forbidden work on Shabbat. The Mishnah includes “tying and untying” among them. One who ties or unties a knot on Shabbat is tantamount to having kindled a fire or planted wheat on Shabbat. There are several detailed ......

Read Halacha

Knots Forbidden To Be Tied on Shabbat by Rabbinic Enactment and Those Permitted to be Tied

In the previous Halacha we have explained that two of the forbidden works on Shabbat are tying and untying a knot. We have likewise discussed some forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. We shall now discuss several forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied as a re......

Read Halacha

Everything is Foreseen and Permission is Granted

Israeli Independence Day is celebrated today. Since we have discussed this topic several times in the past, we will not delve into this matter lengthily at this point. Let us just note that according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, although one must show thanks to Hashem for removing the ......

Read Halacha

The Pesach Seder-Kadesh

The Pesach Seder-Kadesh The famous order of the Seder of the eve of Pesach, Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rochtza, Motzi, Matzah, Maror, Korech, Shulchan Orech, Tzafun, Barech, Hallel, Nirtzah, was established by the leader of the entire Jewish nation, Rashi. The entire Jewish nation cus......

Read Halacha