Temple Beth Emeth v'Or Progressive Shaari Zedek Saturday Morning "Children's" Service version:
In this week’s Torah portion, G-d strikes a covenant with Avram-Avraham to be his Shield and protector, and that of all Avram-Avraham’s children, for eternity. As part of the formation of the covenant, G-d instructs Avram that he and Sarai must change their names to Avraham and Sarah. Now that our first patriarch and matriarch are officially named as such, Avraham and Sarah are promised that they and their seed will inherit the land of Avraham’s sojournings. Avraham is told that G-d’s covenant will continue with him through Yitzchak’s line, but he is reassured that Ishmael will also become a great nation. It is sometimes suspected in the Akidah story, that Yitzchak is the son Avraham truly loves, as it says, “Take your son, your only one, whom you love, Yitzchak, and take him for a burnt offering,” although Midrash tells us that the reason G-d must say “Your son, your only one, whom you love, Yitzchak,” is because in between these lines, are Avraham’s responses we do not get to see, “I have two sons, this is the only son of his mother, and this is the only son of his mother, I love them both, oh okay you mean Yitzchak, why didn’t you just say so?”
Even without this Midrash, Avraham’s concern and love for Ishmael is clear here in Lech-L’cha, and it is obvious that it is important to him that all his seed inherit their fair share of land, and receive their own lives and blessings. When G-d tells Avraham that Sarah will become pregnant and give birth the Yitzchak, Avraham says, “If only that Ishmael should live!” Although he is of course thrilled for his true wife to have a child, he does not want Yitzchak to completely supplant or replace Ishmael. G-d assures Avraham that Ishmael will too be blessed and will also be the father of a great nation, but, the covenant remains with Yitzchak, and with it, the land of Avraham’s sojournings. Surely, though, the great nation of Ishmael must have a place of its own too, nearby enough to visit Grandpa Avraham?
As descendants of Avraham and Sarah, we have a responsibility, then, to treat one another as brothers and sisters, or at the very least as close cousins. We have the responsibility to respect everyone’s right to their fair share of land and their own lives and blessings. Earlier in the portion, Avraham and Lot realize they are trying to share a plot of land too small to sustain each of their families and herds and all of their households. So, Avraham suggests to Lot that he take his wealth elsewhere; the entire land is before him for his choosing. This shows a keen understanding of natural resources and sustainability, as well as a concern for Shalom in the Home. These days, we have many more people trying to share such resources and the entire land is not before us. Pretty much all inhabitable land is inhabited at this point. As such, the fighting, as with between the herdsmen of Avraham and Lot, continues over these precious resources and land space. Is that how brothers and sisters and cousins should behave? So rather than move to a place that can sustain our individual possessions, or continue fighting, better we should reassess and share those possessions, particularly in the land that Avraham’s descendants were promised.
May we all find a way to live in harmony with each other and our land, to share our possessions, our precious land and water resources, and behave as if we are all equally children of Abraham and Sarah. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.