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Parashat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

At the beginning of our parashah we learn about the calling of a man named Abram. The LORD would eventually change his name to Abraham, but while he was still called Abram, the Creator of the Universe summoned him out from among his people and into His service. He immediately left a city named Haran and headed toward Canaan, the land God would eventually give to him and his descendants. When he reach Canaan, however, the Torah details Abram’s encampments, naming them individually beginning with Shechem, as it says, “Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh” (Genesis 12:6). Ramban (Nachmanides) takes note of this and asks why the Torah records these encampments. He answers his own question by saying the Torah is teaching us a valuable lesson. It is a principle of the Torah which states, ma’asei avot siman l’banim, “The deeds of the fathers are portents / signs for the children.”

Abraham—the father of the Israelite nation and the father of faith to all who believe—set the pattern for those who would come after him. His actions set in motion this spiritual principle. Everything he did became a blueprint for both his natural children and his spiritual children. We can see this principle being played out in the lives of Abraham’s children and grandchildren. Both Isaac and Jacob often retrace the steps of Abraham and imitate his actions. For instance, when Abraham settles in the land of the Philistines, he tells Abimelech that Sarah is his sister and the king takes her for himself. When Isaac journeys to the same area he repeats this same ruse with Rebecca with the same results.

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