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Torah Attitude: Parashas Lech Lecha: Seeing one piece of the puzzle

Summary

Many events in the world, both in regards to individuals and nations, bring about questions to the human observer. G'd involved nine nations in order to benefit one single righteous person and his family. Abraham and his descendants were rewarded with two special mitzvot (commandments): the mitzvah of tzitzis and the mitzvah of tefillin. The Torah law is that at items possessed by a slave belong to the slave's master. "This is the way of G'd, to guard the money of even wicked people in order to pass it on to the righteous." "One [person] prepares it in order that the righteous wears it and the money will be divided amongst the ones who are pure." Events that we at first question why would G'd allow them to happen, eventually we will see how they turn out to be of benefit to the righteous.

Questions of worthiness

Many events in the world, both in regards to individuals and nations, bring about questions to the human observer. First of all, there is the question of why the righteous suffer while the wicked have a good time. We also often wonder why certain people are successful in life and amass a lot of wealth. They just do not appear to be worthy of the riches they gather.

Abraham and four kings

In this week's Torah portion (Bereishis 14:1-24), Amraphel, King of Shinar, together with another three kings, went to war against Bera, King of Sodom, and another four kings to crush a revolt that had been going on for thirteen years. It developed into a major war between these nine kings. The outcome of the war was that the four kings were victorious. They took a lot of spoils and captured the inhabitants of Sodom, including Lot, the nephew of Abraham. When Abraham was notified that his nephew had been captured, he immediately gathered his men and went to free the captives. In a miraculous battle, Abraham won and freed all the captives and brought back the spoils that the four kings had amassed during the war. We here see how G'd involved nine nations in order to benefit one single righteous person and his family. Although there no doubt were other reasons for this war, and the suffering that this war brought about was well deserved for the wickedness of these people, nevertheless, one of G'd's reasons for allowing this war to take place was to benefit Abraham.

Abraham's descendants' reward

This concept is mentioned in the Midrash Tanchuma. The Midrash says: "G'd said I will bring about a war between the kings of the world in order that Abraham eventually will come and receive all the spoils." However, Abraham, in his great modesty, refused to keep what was rightfully his and returned the spoils of war to its original owners. The Talmud (Sotah 17a) explains that in this merit Abraham and his descendants were rewarded with two special mitzvot (commandments): the mitzvah of tzitzis and the mitzvah of tefillin.

The slave and the Will

The Midrash quotes what King Solomon says in Koheles (2:26), "To the man who He found good before Him, He [G'd] gave wisdom And to the sinner, He gave the urge to gather and amass [wealth], in order to give it to the one who G'd finds to be good " Says the Midrash, this verse is a hint to a story about a father who left Israel and traveled to a distant country. He left behind his only son who devoted his life to studying Torah in Israel. When the father felt that the end of his days was near, he presented his slave with his Last Will and Testament giving all his possessions to the slave. But the Will stipulated that his son would have the right to choose any one item from the estate. After the father died, the slave gathered all the possessions and processed the administration of the estate. The slave returned to Israel with the Will in hand. He advised the son that his father had died and presented him with the Will. One can imagine how the son was shocked. How could his father have disinherited him? Why would he leave everything to this slave? And why was he allowed to only choose one item? The son was at a loss so he ran to his rabbi for advice. The rabbi said to him, "Your father was a very wise man and knowledgeable in the laws of the Torah. He realized that if he did not write the Will, the slave would have taken everything for himself. But by giving everything to the slave, he ensured that the slave would carefully administer the Will. When you go to the Beth Din, and the slave produces the Will, tell the rabbis of the court that you choose the slave himself as the one item. In that way, you will acquire all of your father's possessions together with the slave. For the Torah law is that at items possessed by a slave belong to the slave's master."

The wealth gets passed to the righteous

The Midrash explains that G'd gave wisdom to the father how to organize his affairs. And to the slave, He gave the urge to administer the estate, so that it would be preserved for the son, the one who G'd found to be good by his devoted Torah studies. Concludes the Midrash: "This is the way of G'd, to guard the money of even wicked people in order to pass it on to the righteous." In this way, G'd spares the righteous from having to spend the time and effort to amass and administer the wealth. Just as the son was able to continue and spend his time studying Torah while the slave was busy taking care of the estate for the son's benefit.

Just a custodian

The Chovos Halevovos (Introduction to Gate of Trust) also quotes this verse from Koheles in his discussion of how one should look at wealth. We can never know for sure, says the Chovos Halevovos, why G'd has blessed someone with wealth. One of the possibilities may be that he is just a custodian to look after it in order to pass it on to someone who is a worthy recipient. That it is what it says in Job (27:17), "One [person] prepares it in order that the righteous wears it and the money will be divided amongst the ones who are pure."

G'd's master plan

In this Midrash we get a little glance at G'd's master plan, how everything has a purpose and ultimately every piece fits into the puzzle. With this insight we can better appreciate that even events that we at first question why would G'd allow them to happen, eventually we will see how they turn out to be of benefit to the righteous. This is how King David describes what will happen when Mashiach will come and gather the exiles. As it says (Tehillim 126:1-2), "Then our mouths will be filled with laughter, and our tongues with jubilation." Then, and only then will we be able to understand the just and righteous ways of G'd throughout the history of the world.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.


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