We Can Work It Out: Lech Lecha 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are you particularly reluctant to engage in confrontation? If so, what do you fear the most about it? Are you most worried about the reaction of the person you must confront, or about the thoughts of others who will hear (or hear about) the conflict?

When Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen argue, Abram seeks out peace – but why, precisely?

The Pitch: “And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and those of Lot’s cattle — the Canaanites and Perizzites were then dwelling in the land — Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, between my herdsmen and yours, for we are kinsmen.’” – Genesis 13:7-8

Swing #1: “[Since] the Canaanites and Perizzites are … mentioned, it must be that they became involved in this family squabble. Perhaps, indeed, they joined with Lot’s herdsmen and began trying, as the Testament of Levi suggests, to reduce the size of Abraham’s livestock in any way they could. For this same reason Abraham next suggests that the dispute be ended, ‘for we are kinsmen’ – that is, ‘Let’s keep the Canaanites and Perizzites out of this.’ And, if it is Abraham who says this, that would tend to confirm the supposition that these outsiders had intervened against Abraham.” – James L. Kugel, The Ladder of Jacob: Ancient Interpretations of the Biblical Story of Jacob and his Children

Swing #2: “This passage conveys in allegorical terms the importance of the proper religious training of our young. … It was due to the failure of the parents to train their young in the Law and in its observance that the Jewish people lost their home and strangers settled on the soil of the Land of Israel. … As long as all Jews will not agree that there is no other alternative but the way of Abraham, the land of Israel will be ruled by alien peoples, for the Jews will not be worthy of dwelling there. ” – Avnei Ezel

Swing #3: “I detect a special meaning in Abraham employing the feminine form for the word strife, i.e. מריבה, although the Torah had already reported a ‘strong’ quarrel, ריב, having occurred between their respective shepherds. Abraham considered מריבה as a development of ריב. He considered the ‘fruit’ of ריב to be מריבה. The latter word is akin to מתרבה, ‘constantly increasing.’ Since women produce children, he used the female form of the word ריב, i.e מריבה, in order to allude to the peculiarity of quarrels which keep increasing. He viewed ריב as something masculine, unable to give birth.” – Shnei Luchot HaBrit

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators believe that Abram is motivated for peace more because he seeks tranquility or more because he’s concerned about what other people might think of the conflict? Is there ever a bad reason to pursue peace?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Please join Temple’s Lifelong Learning students and their teachers as they lead us in prayer on Saturday, November 5th at 6:00 pm. We will be together for Mincha, Ma’ariv and Havdalah. The service will be in person as well as on the Temple’s livestream.

The Big Inning at the End: I’m finding this year’s World Series to be highly intriguing. It’s a matchup of two teams that are very different from one another, and each game has taken on its own character. I’m glad there will be at least two more games of baseball this year.

Shabbat Shalom!