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On the Move Again


At the beginning of Parshat Lech Lecha, we learned about a geographical change made by Avram and Sarai, commanded by Hashem, which apparently was necessary for them to fulfill their destiny as patriarch and matriarch of the Jewish nation.  In Parshat Veyera, we read about another geographical change, this time without divine command, but perhaps no less significant.

After the destruction of Sodom, Avraham and Sarah move.  In Bereshit 20:1 the Torah states:  “And Avraham moved from there towards the Negev; and he settled between Kadesh and Shur; and he lived in Grar.”  Similar to the beginning of Lech Lecha, the Torah is careful to highlight the place that Avraham left and the place where he subsequently settled.  The pasuk says “mesham”, “from there”, which is superfluous.  There obviously is something significant about the place from where Avraham moved, and why he moved from there.  Rashi provides two possible explanations for Avraham’s decision to move “from there.”  One explanation is that Avraham wanted to distance himself from Lot.  The story told in the Torah immediately prior to the move is that of  the incestuous encounters of Lot and his daughters.  Rashi, however, provides another explanation.  Apparently, Avraham had lived on the road that led to the five cities (Sodom, Amorah, etc.).  This meant that there were always travelers on the road whom Avraham could invite into his home, to whom he could provide hospitality and spread his message of monotheism and morality.  After the cities were destroyed, the flow of travelers ceased.  Avraham could no longer do chesed and spread his message in this place.  He had to move.

But why did he pick this new location?  It was a place which had its own challenges.  Avraham once again would have to deal with a local monarch taking Sarah captive, as had happened in Egypt.  Then he was forced to go to Egypt because of famine.  In this case, however, was it really necessary for Avraham to move to a place where this kind of danger would exist?  A close examination of the pasuk reveals that Avraham didn’t actually choose one location, but two.  “…and he settled between Kadesh and Shur.”  Why there?  Writes Sforno:  “between two large metropolises, to publicly pray to and preach in the name of Hashem.”  Apparently, Avraham chose a location where he could have the most significant possible influence on the largest number of people.  This, Avraham felt, was the purpose of his existence on earth, and he had to do it where he could have the greatest success, despite the dangers.  In addition, Avraham perhaps viewed the fate of Sodom as his fault.  His tent was on the road going to and from Sodom.  Maybe if he had made his home in the middle of those cities, things would have been different.  This time, therefore, he plants himself in the middle of it all, right between the two main centers of civilization in that region.

At the beginning of Lech Lecha, Avram and Sarai make a move which is necessary for their development and the ultimate establishment of the Jewish nation along certain theological guidelines.  It is a geographical relocation which symbolizes movement and change in a deeper place.  Here too, in Vayera, Avraham recognizes that what he has done up until this point was not enough, and that it is time to intensify his outreach activities, in order to have a greater impact on the world.

Shabbat Shalom.




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