This is sort of the prototype for this week's d'var Torah, but I wanted to post it as is, and point out that in the future, if I ever have the opportunity to give this in the proper setting, I'm going to Arava it up, add facts and figures of resource scarcity in Israel/Palestine, and how working together on sustainability will bring us to Shalom in the Home(land) between all of us multitude of nations descending from Avraham.
The version that will be read on Saturday will be posted later in the week.
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. Rashi explains a commentary from Genesis Rabbah, to let us know the significance of these changes. The name Avram means “the Father of Aram,” the place the Avram came from. In G-d’s covenant, Avraham is promised to be the father of a multitude of nations, an “Av Hamon,” which looks like something of an acrostic of his name in the scripture, so the hey is added into Avram-Avraham’s name to convey the “hamon” – the multitude of nations – that Avraham is now father to. So with Sarai, the yud or the “eye” sound at the end of her name denotes personal ownership. For Avram, Sarai is “my princess”. Now that she will be the mother of the multitude of nations, she must become Sarah, a princess for any and all.
Now that our first patriarch and matriarch are officially 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?” But without this Midrash Avraham’s concern and love for Ishmael is clear, and it is important to him that all his seed inherit their fair share of land, and receive their own lives and blessings.
As descendants of Avraham and Sarah, we have a responsibility, then, to treat one another as brothers and sisters, 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, but 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. So rather than move to a place that can sustain our individual possessions, 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.