Torah Portion of Lech Lecha – Channeling Fear Through Faith

This week’s Haftorah is within chapter 40 and 41 of Yeshaya. We find the connection to this week’s Torah portion of Lech Lecha in the beginning of the 41st perek: “Who aroused from the east, the one whom righteousness accompanied? He placed nations before him and over kings He gave him dominion; He makes his sword like dust, his bow like wind-blown stubble. He pursues them and passes on safely, on a path upon which he had not come with his feet. Who worked and did, who calls the generations from the beginning; I Hashem, am first, and with the last ones I am He. The islands shall see and fear; the ends of the earth shall quake; they have approached and come. Each one shall aid his fellow, and to his brother he shall say, ‘Strengthen yourself’” (Yeshaya 41:2-4).
The Radak says these pesukim refer to Avraham Avinu: “’Who aroused from the east,’ refers to Avraham Avinu who Hashem instructed to leave his homeland in the east which was a place of idolatry. Where ever he went Avraham proclaimed Hashem’s righteousness and truth. He would say to them, leave your idols for they have no substance and serve The One Who Created The World, and he would teach them the ways of faith. Isn’t this amazing! One person amongst the whole world who were all idolaters and he rebuked them about their faith and he was not afraid of them and they even made him ruler over them. Who inspired his heart to do this, isn’t it I, Hashem?! Who gave before him nations and caused kings to fall in his midst. They were the four kings, Kedarlaomer and the rest of them which Avraham chased with 318 men, smote them and save the prisoners of war (which included his nephew, Lot.) He also took all the spoils. This was all done with much trust in Me (Hashem).” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

Avraham Avinu had an unbreakable faith and trust in Hashem which led him to embark upon  a spiritual war against the world  of idolatry, and a physical war against the four kings and there mighty armies (in order to save Lot). He was successful in both endevours, but it was all Hashem’s will, which he believed in and sacrificed his life for.

The Radak says that when the heads of faraway lands  heard of this great thing that  had been done, they feared and trembled; even those at the ends of the earth  heard the legend of what had happened, and were stirred by the matter. They then traveled and came close to meet Avraham, just as the king of Sodom did, who went out to meet him. Nevertheless, each one  helped the others  to build idols, and  would not place upon their hearts either knowledge or insight into how this matter with Avraham actually came about –that with just 318 men he was victorious over 4 great kings. This was an incredible feet, for one cannot say that these  4 kings were weak, as they  were the four who were first victorious over 5 kings (which included Sodom), and struck at the whole entire land! If so, they should have paid attention to why this amazing thing happened through Avraham. Rather the truth is that his faith is different than the faith of all the nations. And The Almighty who he clung to and served Him helped him over these kings. Not only did these other rulers not admit this, but they strengthened themselves more in their idol worship and  said with fear and trepidation from the great act they were privy to, that: ‘We should strengthen ourselves and reinforce our allegiance to our gods.’ Each one to their idol, and they even helped each other do it. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Avraham actually helped save the king of Sodom and his people from the four kings. The king of Sodom was an eyewitness to all the miracles that happened. He saw the hand of G-D bring salvation to him and his nation; yet we all know what happened to Sodom in the end. It was destroyed by Hashem for their evil ways. Yeshaya speaks of other nations who heard firsthand reports of Avraham’s steadfast belief in his G-D and the miracles his G-D did for him and they stood in fear and wanted to see what was going on, who is this person, who is this G-D of his; but in the end they were uninspired. Not only did they not change, they helped each other and encouraged each other to hold firm  to their old ways, strengthening their grip on their idols.

It would seem that Avraham, the king of Sodom, and the other leaders in the world, all had some revelation or some degree of clarity that there must be some Omnipotent being in the world. But whereas Avraham’s reaction was to seek out the source of the Omnipresence and to try to get as close to it as he could, everyone else not only ignored the flashing lights and signals, but ultimately went in the opposite direction, strengthening their old beliefs and helping each other stick to their old ways. It is obvious that Avraham, with his realization and insight into Hashem, had an incredibly deep sense and feeling of fear of Hashem. Why did Avraham’s fear of Hashem have different results than the leaders’ fears and trepidation of Hashem?

It would seem that the difference between Avraham and everyone else was that Avraham had a system to channel his realized fears and trepidation of The Almighty One. Avraham realized from the age of three that there must be an Almighty, All Powerful, Master of the Universe who created and sustains everything. With that knowledge he built a very strong base of faith and trust in Hashem, to the point that he was able to look around Hashem’s world and figure out Hashem’s will; i.e. all the mitzvos; even before Hashem officially gave the Torah. However, everyone else did not have a system to channel their fear and trepidation over the awesome effects and miracles they heard or saw.They were curious, but they did not know what to do with themselves. Their faith was different, and so when left lawless with no system to channel it,they violently moved as far from the proper path as they could, with the result being that Sodom and the other nations helped each other to grow there ideologies. The reason why they did not come to the same realization and recognition as Avraham did was due to their lack of trying to gain knowledge and insight into the ultimate truth.

The Radak, with his keen eye points out that in pasuk 3 Yeshaya is speaking in the future tense, the message being that whatever Hashem did with Avraham, He will do the same with all the righteous in every generation who have  a love for Hashem as Avraham had. In fact in pesukim 8-10  Yeshaya says: “But you, Israel my servant, Yaakov whom I have chosen, the seed of Avraham, who loved Me. Whom I grasped from the end of the earth, and from its nobles I called you, and I said to you, ‘You are My servant’, I chose you and I did not despise you. Do not fear I am with you; be not discouraged for I am your G-D: I encouraged you, I also helped you, I also supported you with My righteous hand.”

The Radak says we, the children of Avraham, who chose to cling to Hashem and leave idolatry to become His servant, we are also his servants. And He will redeem us from exile; therefore we should not be afraid, for He is with us and will save us in due time. May it come speedily in our days!