Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvisטוויטר

The Chief Rabbi’s D’var Torah for Lech Lecha

What is the saddest verse of the Torah? Unfortunately there are many verses which could come into contention for such a description, including one in Parshat Lech Lecha.

Avram and Sarai had made aliyah to the land of Canaan. They were accompanied by Avram’s nephew Lot and many followers. Both Avram and Lot were blessed with immense wealth, and what happens in some families happened to them: On account of all of this wealth there was a lot of tension between them and their shepherds. And then we come to our very sad verse.

“Vayehi riv bein roei miknei Avram uvein roeh miknei Lot.” – “There was a conflict between the shepherds of Avram and the shepherds of Lot.”

"VehaKenaani vehaPrizi az yoshev baaretz.” – “And the Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land.”

Now the entire narrative is exclusively about Avram and Lot and their relationship. Indeed immediately after this verse we’re told how Avram turned to Lot and said to him,

“Let there not be any strife between me and you. After all we are brothers. We are one family.”

So why therefore, right in the middle of this narrative are we told that the Canaanites and the Perizzites were then living in the land?

And we can add to that – isn’t it obvious? Where else should the Canaanites be? This was the Land of Canaan!

The Torah must be wanting to impart here a crucially important lesson for the Jewish nation.

You see after Avram and Sarai made aliyah, the local population didn’t warm to them and indeed the Canaanites and the Perizzites in the land presented a hostile environment for them. And what was happening within their own family at the time? There was strife.

Time and time again throughout our history when there has been danger from without, we have been divided within.

This is what led to the split of the Jewish nation into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah, resulting eventually in the disappearance of ten of the tribes of our people. This is what led to the destruction of our temple followed by many tragedies all caused by disunity within our ranks, leading to that tragic day 25 years ago in 1995 when a Jewish person assassinated Yitzchak Rabin the Prime Minister of Israel.

We still haven’t properly learned the lesson of how crucially important Jewish unity is for us.

Let us therefore heed those words of Avram to Lot when he said to him,

“Al na tehi meriva beini uveinecha,” – “Let there not be strife between me and you,”

“ki anashim achim anachnu.” – “because we are one family.”

Shabbat shalom.