Summary: Lekh-Lekha is the third parasha in the Book of Genesis. Ten generations passed from Noah to Avram, and a new Era was about to begin. The parashacontains 6 of the 10 trials Avram underwent in the search for and service of the One Divine Being. Avram, renamed Abraham, was the champion of monotheism in the old world.
The first aliyah contains the test of leaving his country, his place of birth and his father’s house to wander to a land G-d would show him. Once there, he traversed the country setting up altars to G-d in Shekhem and Beit-El, eventually crossing the Negev. No sooner had he settled in Cana’an then famine erupted and Avram had to leave for Egypt – his second test. Fearing for his life In Egypt due to his wife’s beauty, he asked Sarai to say she was his sister.
The second aliyah describes Avram’s next test – his wife was taken captive by Pharaoh whose house and family were struck by plague until Sarai was released. Pharaoh quickly had them escorted out of the country. The three, Avram, Sarai & Lot, left Egypt laden with much newly acquired wealth. Returning to Beit-El, Avramagain called out to G-d.
The third aliyah details the squabble between Avram and Lot now unable to live together because of their wealth. A quarrel between the shepherds of the two men lead to them going their separate ways. Lot chose the Plains of Sodom & Gemorrah, and Avraham the higher ground of Cana’an. G-d promised Avram his descendants would be numerous as the ‘dust of the earth’. Avram moved to Hebron where he built another altar to G-d.
The fourth aliyah provides the background and the history of the battle of the Four versus the Five Kings and Avram’s intervention to rescue nephew Lot. With only 318 men, Avram defeats the prevailing armies and rescues Lot. The King of Sodom went to meet Avram. Malki-Sedek, the High Priest of On, did the same offering bread and wine and bestowing on Avram a blessing from the most High. This was Avraham’s fourth test.
In the fifth aliyah the King of Sodom asked for the return of war spoils taken from his city and Avram complied. Afterwards, G-d appeared to Avram in a vision promising him much reward. But Avram complained nothing was of consequence as long as he had no offspring. Then the word of G-d came to Avram that his progeny would be as numerous as the ‘stars in the Heavens’.
In the sixth aliyah Avram was commanded by G-d to offer a set of sacrifices. He divided the animals, placing the carcass halves opposite each other. Overcome by fatigue, Avram fell into a trance of fear and trembling where he saw his offspring would be strangers in a strange land, oppressed for 400 years, until being freed and leaving with great inheritance. This became known as the Covenant of the Pieces in which G-d promised Avram to give vast amounts of land to his offspring – from the Egyptian river to the Euphrates – an area occupied by 10 older nations.
The sixth aliyah continues with the barren Sarai’s decision to offer Hagar her hand-maiden as a surrogate mother to Avram. Hagar quickly fell pregnant and belittled her mistress. Sarai mistreated her until Hagar fled to a desert oasis. There, an angel found her, encouraged her to return to Sarai, and promised her she would have a son and her offspring would be prolific. The angel told her to name the baby Yishmael. She called the place of her encounter Be’er Lahai Ro’i. Hagar gave birth in the year Avram was 86 years old. This was his 5th test.
When Avram was 99, G-d appeared again charging him to ‘walk in front of G-d and be pure’. His name was changed from Avram to Avraham (father of many nations) by G-d who promised Avraham many Kings would descend from him.
The last aliyah describes a new covenant between G-d and Avraham’s descendants. Brit milah (circumcision) would be an everlasting covenant enabling Avraham to merit possession of the land. At 8 days old, all male children were to be circumcised.
G-d declared to Abraham that Sarai’s name would be changed to Sarah and that she would bear a child. When he laughed in disbelief, G-d told Abraham the child should be called Yitshak. Yishmael would become a great nation of 12 princes but the covenant would be established with Yitshak. When G-d finished speaking, Avraham’s 6th test was to circumcise himself, Yishmael and all the male members of Avraham’s household. This occurred the year Avraham was 99 and Yishmael 13.