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A True Bond

By: Mrs. Bracha Krohn

In Parshat Lech-Lecha, perek 15 verse 8, Avraham shocks us by questioning G-d’s promise that he will receive the Land of Eretz Canaan: He asks: "Bemah eda ki irshena", which seems to mean “How will I know (for sure) that I will inherit it?” That can’t be! Avraham, our paradigm of faith in Hashem, about whom it is stated (two verses earlier) that “he trusted in Hashem” cannot be doubting or losing faith now, can he? And how does G-d’s response in the following verses, the famous Brit Bein haBetarim  in which Avraham is instructed to lay out animals and is told about the future exile , serve as an answer to Avraham?

Two novel and inspiring interpretations are given by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rav Soloveitchik, respectfully.

Rav Hirsch explains the question by reminding us of the context of the promise Avraham is receiving. He has just helped the five kings in the region in a victory over four other kings and he is remembering that he has been promised the land before. The latest version of the promise, as stated in 15:7, adds the word “to take into possession” which suggests – for the first time – some sort of action or plan for conquering. That phrasing of the promise prompts Avraham to wonder if the battle in which he just participated is really the beginning of conquering the land. Should he keep going? He was asking here in verse 8 “by what means - i.e. how – shall I know that it is the right time to inherit it?” (now?) And to that question, Hashem responds by telling him that first his children will end up in a foreign land and only in the fourth generation will the Jewish people return.  So G-d is answering that this is not the time for total and complete conquering of Eretz Canaan.

Rav Soloveitchik answers this difficulty by reminding us that the Hebrew word “know” here also connotes love and intimacy throughout the Torah. It is often used to describe the relationship between couples. What Avraham is asking here is “how will I come to love and feel connected to this Land?” After leaving his homeland and birthplace, he feels like people and land don’t have such a strong bond. G-d is promising this Land, but how will he really ever feel that strongly about it? All he has seen is man being uprooted and leaving a land behind. How will this not be the case with Eretz Canaan?  The answer(s) lie in the Brit bein haBetarim; first of all the animals represent sacrifice, the Rav explains. Avraham is being taught that it is through sacrifice that we will grow attached to the land. Second of all it is through exile and being kept away – as our first exile in Egypt will show – that a true bond is formed. The galut will create an effect of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and cause the Jews to yearn for and never forget Eretz Canaan.

In our generation we have witnessed the truth of these two very beautiful, emotional and insightful commentaries. We have an active military and often find ourselves asking “how far should we go?” and “is this the time?” Is the geulah/possession of this land ours to realize now?

We also see the end to the yearning and galut with the increasing and constant numbers of new olim. Jews are coming home with a passion and love for settling and living in Eretz Yisrael that the 2,000 year old galut has intensified.


Shabbat Shalom.




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