Man of Spirit, Man of Action

  • Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

Sicha for Shabbat from the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion





Summarised by Rav Eliyahu Blumenzweig



Parashat Lekh-Lekha presents two sides of Avraham Avinu's personality. On the one hand, we discover Avraham the prophet, who merits Divine revelation and the promise of a covenant. On the other hand, Avraham reveals himself as a man of action, the owner of immense wealth, a warrior who battles against kings and prevails.

That aspect of Avraham's personality which finds expression in his life of action undergoes progressive development. Avraham arrives in Kena'an as a stranger, and wanders in the land with his wife and relatives. We follow his path: Shekhem, Elon Moreh, Beit El, the Negev. But famine strikes the land and Avraham is forced to pack up his belongings and move to Egypt. Later on, we suddenly discover him owning property: "Sheep and cattle, and donkeys and manservants and maidservants, and she-asses and camels" (Bereishit 12:16). He confronts Pharaoh - and prevails. Henceforth his status is elevated: "And Avraham was very wealthy, with cattle and with silver and with gold" (ibid. 13:2). In the conflict with Lot, his nephew, he proves himself Lot's equal: "For we are brothers" (13:4). A further stage is reached when Avraham is revealed to us as master and victor, ruling over four kings.

However, Avraham's progressive material establishment, expressed by his wealth and his social standing, does not compromise his spiritual stature. At each stage of his progress in the physical world, the Torah describes his parallel spiritual development. Avraham builds an altar to God who appeared to him (12:7), returns to it and calls out in the name of God (13:4), builds another altar (13:18) and brings knowledge of God to the priests of other nations (14:19).

Avraham's trait of "chesed" extends to and is expressed in both areas - in the physical world, the world of action, as well as in the spiritual world, the world of service and fear of God. He brings awareness of the Almighty with him wherever he goes.

All of this is achieved through his modest and humble manner of influence, without any expectation of personal gain. As Avraham tells the king of Sedom: "I have raised my hand to the Lord, the most high God, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing from a thread even to a shoelace, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you say, 'I have made Avram rich'" (14:22-23).

"Ma'aseh avot siman le-vanim" - this characteristic of the patriarch is certainly worthy of being emulated by his progeny.


(From a sicha given at the yeshiva at se'uda shelishit, Shabbat Lekh-Lekha, 5732. Translated by Karen Fish.)



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