Thursday, November 10, 2016

the rechush of Lot

VaYikchu es Lot v’es rechusho ben achi Avram…” (14:11) The phrasing of the pasuk is difficult.  Shouldn’t it have said “Lot achi Avram v’rechusho?”  Why put “achi Avram” after the word rechush?
We know from later in the parsha that Lot had no problem leaving Avraham for the greener pastures of Sdom, so we know that Lot was not exactly committed to Avram's mission.  Why did he follow Avram to Eretz Yisrael to begin with?  Rav Kook explains (Shmu'os Ra'AY"H) that it was the neshomah of Rus, the lineage of Moshiach, that was deep within Lot which drew him like a magnet to follow Avraham Avinu and go to Eretz Yisrael.  Ask one of the Jews who show up to shul on R"H, Y"K, and maybe attend a seder why they do it and you are not going to here a philosophical explanation.  They probably can't articulate a rational explanation.  It's something inexplicable that draws them there, something inside that they haven't manage to kill (sometimes despite their best efforts).
R' Kalman Frankel (the compiler of the Shemuo's Ra'AY"H) explains derech derush that the nations of the world sensed this in Lot as well.  The rechush they were after was not cash or jewels -- the rechush they were after the fact that he was "achi Avram."  The sensed there was a spiritual time bomb in Lot that was set to be activated somehow by his relationship with Avraham.  They were out to stop that by any means.  You leave a Lot around with an Avraham anywhere in the neighborhood and who knows -- the kids may become ba'alei teshuvah and wind up as Roshei Yeshiva somewhere.  The nations know this better than we do, and so they want to get rid of the Lot's of the world completely.
Rav Kook goes so far as to suggest that the reason G-d appeared to Avraham after the war against the five kings to reassure him that his reward will still be great and he will have a son who will inherit him is because Avraham sensed that Lot held the key to future redemption and was concerned that perhaps Lot and his offspring would be the central players in G-d's plan instead of Avraham and his own offspring!
The mefoshim (see Ramban, Ohr haChaim, Seforno) wonder why Avraham was so anxious lest he not have children and why he needed to ask -- tefilah -- for this when earlier in the parsha (13:15-16) Hashem already promised Avraham that his children will inherit Eretz Yisrael and his descendants will be as innumerable as the sand.  Ramban says that tzadikim always are worried that they may prove unworthy of Hashem's promises.  But the question goes beyond being worth of a promise.  One of the first things Avraham did when he came into Eretz Yisrael was go to Shechem.  Rashi (12:6) explains that he davened there for Ya’akov’s children, who would have to one day fight Shechem.  He then camped near the city of Ay, and Rashi (12:8) again explains that Avraham came there to daven for his children, because he saw the sin of Achan that would happen in the battle against Ay.   Avraham saw Ya’akov Avinu and his children, he foresaw Yehoshua leading Bnei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael.  This wasn't just a promise -- it's like seeing the later scenes in a movie.  I'm in the middle of reading a book about the days leading up to Pearl Harbor (I like history), and it's very suspenseful, but for all the suspense, I know what's going to happen -- there is no surprise ending in store.  Avraham saw he future of his children just like I know the history of the past.  So what was he worried about?  Why did he need to daven for a child? 
The Sefas Emes discusses this in the likkutim here, but the yesod is really the same idea we discussed 2 years ago from the Sefas Emes on Purim.  The megillah (4:1) tells us that Mordechai knew what had happened, “u’Mordechai yada es kol asher na’asah,” and he put on sackcloth and ashes and went crying through the streets.
What did Mordechai know that no one else knew?  The end of the previous chapter in the megillah says that messengers went out to the entire kingdom with the decree to carry out Haman’s plot, and the city of Shushan was in a state of confusion.  Everyone knew what was going on!

Answers the Sefas Emes: Mordechai knew that in shamayim the refuah for this decree was already in place and there was no chance of it becoming a reality.  Nonetheless, he went out to the streets mourning and crying and being mispallel as if his life and the life of Klal Yisrael depended on it.
When I wrote this up two years ago I stressed the idea of being mishtatef in the tzarah of the tzibur, but here the Sefas Emes stresses the philosophical idea: yedi’ah and bechirah -- the twain can never meet.  Even if a person is shown a glimpse of the future and knows what’s going to happen, that does not excuse him/her from doing whatever needs to be done in the present just as if he/she knew nothing.  Avraham could see it all, but he still had a mitzvah to beseech Hashem for a son as if nothing was determined and no promises were on the table.  Ya’akov Avinu was promised that Hashem would return him home safely, and nonetheless, he davened and made plans to fight Eisav as if nothing was guaranteed.  Mordechai knew it would work out okay for Klal Yisrael, but he still fulfilled his chiyuv of tefilah as if everything hung in the balance.
I’m having a hard time digesting and comprehending this idea, but I thought it was worth trying to write it up in the hopes of getting a handle on it myself. 

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