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Welcome to our Shabbos Table!

We hope you enjoy this selection of short divrei Torah, presented to family and guests at our Shabbos table as a springboard for discussion. Each one is followed by a question. The responses shared at our table are enlightening, entertaining, and always thought-provoking.

Please share them at your own Shabbos table, and send us your most interesting responses. A selection of the best will be posted on the website, and eventually, included in a book. To respond, click on "Click here to respond" or email us at
responses@ourtable.org.

Parshas Lech Lecha #1

Into the Unknown

"Go for yourself (Lech lecha) from your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you" (Bereishis 12:1). With these few words, Hashem instructed Avraham, aged seventy-five, to leave behind everything that was familiar and secure and head into an unknown future - and he obeyed without question.

Chazal tell us, "With ten trials our father Avraham was tested" (Avos 5:3). The commentaries differ as to which events in Avraham's life are counted as his ten trials. According to the Rambam (Perush HaMishnayos ibid.), the very first one was Lech Lecha. The last was Akeidas Yitzchak, the command to offer his beloved son Yitzchak as a sacrifice to G-d. Avraham prevailed every time, emerging as the first of the Avos (Forefathers), the founder and eternal role model of the Jewish nation.

Saying Goodbye

The wording of Lech lecha is surprising; it seems to be the opposite of what we would expect. Avraham is told to leave his land and his birthplace, and only then his father's house. Practically speaking, a traveler embarking on a journey first leaves his house, then his hometown, and only later, when he crosses the border, does he leave his country. Why is the order reversed here?

The Ramban (12:1) explains that the order of the verse does not relate to geography. It highlights the many hardships of leaving home. It is difficult to move away from one's native country, with its familiar language and culture. It is even more difficult to leave one's birthplace, where he is part of the social environment, and has his place in the community. Hardest of all, however, is leaving one's own home and parents.

Any move can be a difficult, painful process. Even today, when telephones, email, and convenient international travel keep us connected to family and friends worldwide, anyone who has made Aliyah can testify that starting a new life in unfamiliar surroundings is not easy. Avraham had none of these luxuries when he walked away from his entire life in Charan, including his elderly father, never to return. On every level, Lech lecha was an enormous test.

Question for Discussion:

If you were faced, like Avraham, with the command to leave home and family behind and set out for the unknown, which one item would you choose to take along, and why? Beyond basics like food and clothing, what above all would you want to bring with you into a new and unfamiliar life?

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Parshas Lech Lecha #2

Strategy

"And he moved from there to the mountain east of Beis El, and he pitched his tent. Beis El was to the west, and the Ai was to the east. And he built there an altar for Hashem, and He called out in the Name of Hashem" (Bereishis 12:8).

The Torah describes the location where Avraham settled in some detail. There are no "extra" words in the Torah. Why is this information important, and what does it teach us about Avraham Avinu?

Avraham could have set up camp anywhere in the Land of Canaan. The commentaries tell us that the site near the mountain, with "Beis El... to the west and the Ai... to the east" was selected for a very specific reason. It was far from the ravages of war, and strategically located between two major cities. For Avraham it was the ideal location, where he could reach many people with his message of the existence of the one G-d (Seforno and Malbim ibid.). Avraham had a spiritual goal, and he had clearly invested a great deal of thought in planning the best way to carry it out.

Planning

Planning is integral to success in business: putting together a business plan, choosing a location, ensuring proper funding, assembling a staff, and more. Professional consultants, hired at considerable cost, help companies plan strategies to develop the business, cut costs, and increase revenues.

The Chafetz Chaim writes that we should pursue Torah study with the same energy and sense of urgency that we devote to business (Toras HaBayis, pp. 53-67). This principle applies to all our endeavors in ruchniyus; careful planning and periodic evaluation will help us set goals that are both realistic and challenging, and stay with them.

Avraham Avinu planned his outreach activities to achieve maximum success, much like a successful entrepreneur launching a new business. Following his example, we too should have an orderly plan for our spiritual goals, no less than for any other undertaking.

Question for Discussion:

Rosh Hashanah is a time for evaluating the year just ended and making plans for the year ahead, including goals to be achieved and pitfalls to be avoided. When Avraham set out on the world's first great kiruv mission, his plan was clearly in place. Now, a few weeks into the new year, we should be carrying out our "ruchniyus plans." What is your number one ruchniyus priority for this year, and why?

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