Every one of the 54 parashiyos (Torah portions) is crucial. So is every single line in the Torah. Every single word, even. But this week’s Parsha, Lech Lecha, contains a message- a tale- which no other Parsha boasts of. It tells of the birth of a people, a nation; Hashem’s Chosen People. The Jewish people begin with Soroi and Avrom. Later, they become Soroh and Avrohom, the matriarch and patriarch who we remember every time we light shabbes candles and daven. We speak highly of them; we are their heritage; and so we remember them with our prayers, with our converts’ Hebrew names, and even with our children. Each time a Jewish child is born, Avrohom and Soroh’s legacy is continued. Since their days, the Jewish people have come so far; we’ve not only survived the horrors of pogroms, anti-Semitism, and the Shoah, but in fact we’ve flourished. We’ve rebuilt the Jewish state. We’ve created life-saving inventions. We’ve inspired millions, and helped even more people. The story of the Jewish people is, by every definition, wonderous. It’s deserving of awe. It’s something to be proud of. But did Soroh, our mother, predict this?
The short answer is; no. In fact, she laughed- she laughed at G-d!– when he told her that she was going to have a son. She didn’t believe it. She refused to believe that a nation, a people- let alone the chosen people- would come from her. But she was wrong. And though Hashem didn’t punish her for her laughter, he told her she was wrong, and that a son would be born to her, and, naturally, He was right. He showed Avrohom the stars in the sky, and told him that his descendants would cover the earth, as plentiful as the luminaries above him, and indeed, a son was born. They are commanded to name this son ”Yitzchok”, and did so. And the story of the Jewish people now had a second patriarch- something which Avrohom and Soroh hadn’t dared to imagine, before G-d had told them that their children would consist not only of Yitzchok but of the Jewish nation.
How many times have the greatest successes came as total surprises? How many world-famous entertainers would never have predicted their fame? How many rabbonim were stunned by the number of their followers, the weight of their words? How many ordinary people, even, expected their life to go the way it did?
Making a vague, educated guess- not many. People are surprised by the gravity of their successes; the despair of their failures; even the nature of their own children. It is commonly remarked by parents that they would never have guessed that their offspring, their own flesh and blood, turned out the way they did. But in Soroh’s case, this was even more extreme. Soroh didn’t think she’d have even one child. The birth of Yitzchok was unthinkable. Two children? Three? Impossible, she laughed. How about a whole nation, the nation of the Chosen people, G-d’s children as well as hers? Needless to say, Soroh’s reaction to this revelation was one of utter shock. But it happened anyway. What can this teach us about our daily lives, and the way we live them?
In two words: have emunah. Have faith. Faith in G-d. Faith in the Jewish people. But also have faith in yourself, your abilities. Surely, though, Soroh lacked emunah, when she laughed at Hashem’s promise? And indeed she did. Hashem didn’t punish Soroh. Normally, he would’ve, but having promised to bless her, he could not curse her. So Soroh’s lack of emunah went unpunished, and she was merely proved wrong. Avrohom, though, did have emunah. At G-d’s command, he performed the mitzvah of bris (circumcision), and did the same to all the males in his household. He counted the stars in the sky and realised that his nation would be just as plentiful. And what effect did his emunah have?
Blessings from G-d. A son, a nation. A new mitzvah. But also emunah for Soroh. By showing his emunah, and listening to his Creator, he influenced his wife, who became the matriarch of a nation. When we display emunah, it’s not only us who are rewarded. Those around us reap benefits, as well. Sometimes these are physical, tangible blessings. Other times, it’s the gift of emunah itself. Always have emunah.
This article also appeared here.