Monday, October 29, 2007

Did Avraham Avinu Tarry in Fulfilling the Command of "Lech Lecha"?

I was trying to find the ma'areh makom, citation, for this vort, but since I haven't been able to as of yet, I want to write it up anyway so I don't forget.

I was talking to a local Rav on Parshas Lech Lecha and he pointed out a suprising pshat. The Chumash says that Avraham was 75 years old when he left Charan. It also says that he was 100 when Sara gave birth to Yitzchak. It also says two different lengths of time for how long the Jewish people were in Mitzrayim, Egypt. In one place, it says they were there for 400 years, and in another place, it says they were there for 430 years. The 400 year count is counting from the birth of Yitzchak. But the 430 year could was counting from the Bris Bein Habesarim, the Covenant Between the Parts, when Hashem made the promise to Avraham about the Gerus, Avdus, and Inui (Exile, Slavery and Torture) that his descendants (starting with Yitzchak) would endure, which was 30 years before Yitzchak's birth, thus being 430 years before the Exodus.

But there's a problem there. That count would mean that the Bris Bein Habesarim was when Avraham was 70, when he was told to leave Charan and go to Eretz K'na'an, the land of Israel. But the Torah says he was 75 when he moved to K'na'an!

To answer this question, the Rosh on a Gemara about Avraham in Shabbos (?) gives a suprising answer. He says that Avraham tarried in fulfilling Hashem's commandment to move to K'na'an when he received the "Lech Lecha" command when he was 70. He made a "pilot trip," so to speak and he experienced the Bris Bein Habesarim at that time. That is when the 430 year date is counting from. However, he returned to Charan and didn't move to K'na'an until 5 years, later, when he was 75. That move is what the Torah was referring to when it says that he moved at age 75.

The Korban Nesanel on the spot affirms this pshat and says it works well with the psukim, the verses. He points out that when Avraham left, it says "וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו יְהוָה, וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ, לוֹט" (Bereishis 12:4). "And Avraham went, as G-d told him, and Lot went with him." The Koban Nesanel asks why the verse has to say that Avrhahm "went" two times. First is says that Avraham went. And then, it says that he took Lot with him. That could have been consolodated into one statement! However, with the Rosh's chidush that Avraham went twice (once at 70 with the Lech Lecha command and the Bris Bein Habesarim on the pilot trip and once for good at age 75), the verse makes sense. One "going" refers to the first trip at age 70, and when he went with Lot, that refers to the second trip at age 75.

Just as an observation, it seems like I hear more peshatim that take things that we thought were good about one of the Avos, and then it turns out to be something not-so-good, about Avraham than about any other one of the Avos. Usually by the other Avos, we see how things that look outwardly "bad" were really good. However, with Avraham, I have heard many peshatim over the the years that seem to do the opposite. One example was how the Ramban says that one of the 10 tests of Avraham was to stay in Eretz Yisroel once he got there, dispite the famine, and that he failed this test.

One question I have is that the mishna in Avos 5:3 says, " עשרה נסיונות נתנסה אברהם אבינו, ועמד בכולם," that Avraham Avinu was tested 10 times and he passed all of the tests. Obviously, the Rosh, the Korban Nesanel, and the Ramban know the mishna in Avos. So how could they say that Avraham Avinu "failed," to one extent or another, these tests? Perhaps "ועמד בכולם" doesn't necessarily mean that he passed... Any ideas?

-Dixie Yid

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yitz said...

I think that the ambivalence with regard to Avraham Avinu is there on purpose.

Avraham Avinu is the root of our emunah. Our emunah is inherited from him.

Just as emunah requires free will and safek (as you said yourself in a previous post about Avraham and Safek) so too, there needs to be sfeikot around Avraham, and especially the tenth test, Akeidat Yitzhak, so that there is room for people to cast doubt.

This doubt is a challenge to our emunah. To ensure that our emunah is genuine.

Additionally the fact that Avot says that Avraham passed every test doesn't need to imply he passed them at the first chance. We believe wholeheartedly in Teshuvah. Similarly the Talmud tells us that anyone who says that David HaMelech sinned is wrong. (David himself did Teshuvah and asked for repentance, but since he did Teshuvah, any of his acts were completely transformed)

anyways, that's my best take on it.

A Simple Jew said...

I got D's in math so my head hearts after seeing all those numbers! OUCH!

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Thanks for your thoughts. I didn't think of making that connection between Avraham and Safek with this idea. I definitely hear what you're saying on that.

As to passing every test eventually, that would answer this question with Lech Lecha. But the one where the Ramban says he failed the test of Lech Lecha completely by leaving E"Y for Mitzrayim because of the famine, I don't know if that would work.

Thank you as always for your extremely thoughtful comments. :-)


Don't worry, I was horrible at math too. That's how I feel when we get into the geometry gemaras in Sukkos or anything about Molad.

-Dixie Yid