Bar Mitzvah Drash about Lekh L’kha


This drash was given  October 24, 2015  by Joshua Edwards

Joshua holding Torah scroll for the first time

Joshua Edwards during his bar mitzvah, October 24, 2015.

Lekh L’kha starts when G-d tells 75 year old Abram (not Abraham yet),
“I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth, Shall bless themselves by you.”
Abram takes his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and leaves for Canaan. Along the way they pass through Egypt. Because Sarai is beautiful, Abram pretends that he is her brother. He thinks this will reduce the risk that Pharaoh or others will kill him to take Sarai. The pharaoh does indeed take Sarai without killing him, however the Lord then punishes the pharaoh with plagues. The pharaoh becomes angry with Abram when the Pharaoh realizes Abram has not been truthful.
Back in the land of Canaan, conflict arises between the cattle shepherds of Abram and Lot. Abram fixes the problem by graciously telling Lot, “Is not the whole land before you? Let us separate. If you go north, I will go south; if you go south, I will go north.” They separate, with Lot taking the fertile plain of the Jordan. G-d then tells Abram “Raise your eyes and look out from where you are. To the north and south, to the east and west, for I give you all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever.” He settles at the terebinths of Mamre. Around this time, invading armies fight with several local kings and defeat them, seizing the wealth and taking Lot since he lived in the area. When Abram hears about Lot, he assembles his retainers. At night, they defeat the invaders, pursuing them as far as Damascus and retaking the stolen possessions, women and Lot. The local kings are very grateful, offering Abram to keep the possessions. But Abram refuses because he does not want to give the impression that his wealth comes from the local kings.

Joshua Edwards reading from the Torah with Cantor Linda Semi and Rabbi Mark Melamut.
Joshua Edwards reading from the Torah with Cantor Linda Semi and Rabbi Mark Melamut.

G-d then appears to Abram, saying “Fear not, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” This confuses Abram because he has no offspring to pass this “great reward” along to. G-d still insists he will have offspring and that he should not worry. In a dark dream, G-d tells Abram that his offspring will be enslaved for 400 years, but they will become free; however, Abram will go to his fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.
With no children, Sarai suggests that Abram consort with her maid Hagar. Hagar becomes pregnant and Sarai blames Abram. Sarai feels lowered in his esteem and Abram tells her to treat Hagar as she thinks right. Hagar runs away and an angel of the Lord tells her to return and bear the mistreatment. “I will greatly increase your offspring and they shall be too many to count.” At the age of 86, Abram has his first son, Ishmael.
At the age of 99, G-d comes to Abram and establishes a covenant with him. He asks Abram to change his name to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah, for many nations and kings will come from him. He also asks Abraham to circumcise every male older than 7 days. If any male fails to do this he should be, completely cut off from his family. G-d promises Abraham another son but Abraham is concerned about Ishmael and G-d blesses him as well. That day every man in the tribe is circumcised, including Abraham and his 13 year old son Ishmael.
In this Torah portion G-d made a covenant with Abram. G-d had tried to make covenants in the past, but they never turned out well. Adam and Eve did not obey G-d and ate the apple from the tree. Noah strayed from G-d after he saved him from the flood. So why did G-d choose Abram? Was it because he was a good person, because they had something in common, or was it something they both wanted? I believe it was because they had a common goal. Abram’s family back in his native land of Ur of the Chaldeans all worshiped idols. As you can imagine, someone who believed in one G-d instead of many did not feel welcome in a place like that. Abram wanted to leave. This would enable him to pursue his own beliefs, and the covenant with G-d enabled him to do this. In this way, G-d made a covenant with someone who was ready. Another reason why this covenant succeeded was because G-d spoke directly to Abram. G-d did not negotiate with Abram. He promised him many things without conditions. At the same time, G-d expected Abram to follow His commandments. This arrangement is the basis for the Covenant, and different from G-d’s past relationship with Adam and Noah.
G-d also picked Abram because of his traits. Some of Abram’s traits could have posed a problem to the Covenant. He was very self-reliant, clever and proud. Those traits do not go well in a follower. In addition, he had never followed instructions. On the other hand, G-d needed someone who would stand up for his own beliefs, and encourage others to do the same. Furthermore, Abram was generous and just, traits required to lead a people.

So how is this story related to my life? I’m not leaving my home, walking across deserts, fighting in wars or pretending my wife was my sister. This past year, I did something in my life that seems close to Abraham’s adventure. With my school, I went to Nicaragua. We built the walls for a house. We also tilled and put stakes in a garden. I stayed with a local host family who all (uncles, aunts and grandparents) lived in one house. They ate food unlike ours. The surrounding was alien and I felt confused. The major difference from Abraham was, I only stayed for a few days. In comparison to Abraham, it was a short outing. Like the Nicaragua trip my bar mitzvah is a call to look at the big picture, think about what I believe, and take action on my beliefs. Lech L’cha means “Get Going” and it’s time for me to get going as well. Not in such a grand way as Abraham, but in a small way, one step at a time.

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