Lech Lecha 5782

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Gemara in Nedarim (32a) explains that Avraham was punished when he asked for reassurance from Hashem when he was promised the land of Israel. Avraham asks, "how will I know that I will inherit it?" (15:8). Hashem answers with "You will surely know..." (15:13) and proceeds to tell him the 400 years of slavery the Jews will endure due to him supposedly expressing doubt in this promise. The Kli Yakar finds this very difficult to understand, that such a question by Avraham would cause his descendants to suffer. He proceeds to explain that the question bothering the Gemara is as follows: regardless of what the reason for 400 years of slavery was, why did Hashem tell Avraham such negative details about his descendants to distress him freely? Avraham was asking something which wasn't necessary to know; he should not have asked for a sign from Hashem. This ends up being a middah kineged middah in Hashem responding as if saying, "Do you really want to know? Fine, I will share the unpleasant parts of the covenant." Hashem was as if hoping to spare Avraham from such things.

The Kli Yakar himself believes that the slavery in Egypt was for different reasons (he points to the Abarbanel for a list of them). He continues on to ask why Avraham did not ask for such confirmation when he was promised descendants. Plus, why doesn't he ask about the land when it is first mentioned along with the promise of descendants?

When Hashem mentions giving the land to Avraham, He says it will be given as an "inheritance" (15:7). When Hashem mentions giving Avraham descendants, He merely says "I will give you children," the implication being freely. When Avraham heard the word "inheritance" he wanted confirmation that he would be the sole owner of the land of Israel without any claims from his cousins. Noach gave the Middle East and parts of Asia to Shem after the flood, who had five sons (10:22). Avraham came from the family of Arpachshad, but he was worried that descendants from the other four siblings would claim rights to Israel. Hashem then makes a covenant with him just as He does so with Aharon to disclaim any of Korach's challenges to the priesthood. 


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