Lech Lecha – Unity: Acknowledging Your Piece of the Puzzle

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 The Rosh on this week’s Torah portion of Lech Lecha explains a gemara in Nedarim 32a that discusses an argument about why Avraham was punished by his descendants being enslaved for 210 years in Egypt. Shmuel says it is because he questioned Hashem’s decree when he said “How am I to know that I will inherit it” (Breishis 15:8). The Rosh explains that the way he expressed himself, the words that came out of his mouth, was inappropriate (not that he actually felt in his heart what he said). (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The other answer given by Rebbe Abahu in the name of Rebbe Elazar is because he recruited Torah scholars to aid him in the war against the four kings, as the Torah states “and he mobilized his trained men, those who were born in his house” (Breishis 14:14). The Rosh explains that Avraham Avinu was punished for sending his students, who he taught mitzvos to, as his vanguard in war. (Click here for Hebrew text of gemara Nedarim.)
Avraham joined the war of the four kings verse the five kings in order to save his nephew Lot who was captured. It was a personal matter of life and death and the Ra”n in Nedarim says the problem was that he took his students who he taught Torah into war, and Rashi there describes that he taught them Torah like a person who poured liquid from one vessel into another, that is how he taught them Torah. These people were obviously close confidantes of Avraham who he trusted as the best soldiers to weaponize for war to save his nephew, Lot. Why should he be punished for the decision that he made? Anyone else that he could have recruited, let’s say his normal servants (besides Eliezer who was his most trusted servant, which one opinion in that gemara holds was the only other person who joined Avraham in battle.) or outside friends or mercenaries, who says they could be trusted? His students were the closest ones to him who could be most trusted; so why was Avraham punished?

It would seem that those that were learning Torah were meant to be staying and learning. Each person has a purpose in life and has their own role in contributing to the fight. The Torah student’s role is to accrue merits for the fighters through their learning and prayers that brings spiritual protection to the fighters on the front line.  Taking them away from their main role, on some slight, minuscule level, was a lack of faith in Hashem’s choice for giving individualized purpose to every person. In fact, the Rosh in Nedarim says the real sin was clearly stated as being questioning Hashem, as Shmuel said but Rebbe Abahu in the name of Rebbe Elazer held that this sin of sending the Torah learners out to war was the precursor punishment that allowed Avraham to fall into the trap of questioning Hashem of saying the expression “bameh aidah“.

We see how important it is for everyone to acknowledge that each individual has a certain purpose in the world, to recognize that purpose and to excel at it as much as he possibly can because that is Hashem’s destiny for that individual.

Sending the Torah student to war would be like requiring someone to always walk on their hands. Granted it’s possible and the more one works at it the better he’ll become but a person is not supposed to walk on their hand. Hands are made to work with, and feet are made to walk with, each one has their own purpose, and one will be a much better walker or runner by foot than by hand no matter how much practice he has.

It is possible that some people’s purpose is to learn Torah and to go out into the battlefield to fight. Everyone’s purpose is not black or white, it could be gray, but the point is that one has to figure out and then excel at their own purpose in life and others cannot criticize if someone is doing something different than them if that is supposed to be their purpose in life since everyone is different and has their own unique role in the world.

We are all like a piece of a puzzle, each piece is different and belongs in a specific place some pieces are similar to each so you know they belong in that area but they each have their own unique role, and when unified the complete picture can be seen and understood.