Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lech Lecha by Rav Hirsch

Some difficulties in regular posting but i promise improvement B-H.
Meanwhile one of he greatest pieces from Rav Hirsch's comments on Chumash.

Lech Lecha
12;2 Veescha legoy gadol – And I will make you a great nation.
Even looked at quite superficially, it is already evident that Abraham was to receive back from God everything that he had given up, and indeed in a considerably enhanced measure. By renouncing meartzo – from his land, he gave up his nationality. But instead of having to attach himself to another one, God says that he himself is to be the founder of a new one. By giving up his birthplace – moladeto he is not to miss the civic rights which are the natural source of prosperity for v’averachecha, in God will he gain the right to prosper on earth. And inasmuch as he forsakes his family, and thereby gives up the respect and honor given to well-known old families egadlo shemecho – I will make great your name, a new name is to grow to great renown.
Our sages in Midrash Rabbah Berieshis 30:9, reminds us that it does not say that God will be the protector of and look after the national development of his descendants similarly to the way He directs and guides the growth of nations in general, but “I will make you, create you to a great nation”. All external natural conditions shall speak against it, and here it shall be strikingly apparent that God is the creator of this nation as such. Already the age and the barrenness of the pair who were chosen to be the roots of the future nation denied the presumption of the promised future, according to all natural assumption. God alone could make Abraham to a great nation. So already beforehand, the very existence of this people was to be a revelation of God.
But numerous descendants do not yet constitute a nation. That any mass of people should become a goy, a nation, there must be some uniting bond. Everywhere else this is a common land, living together under the same influences and conditions. But the descendants of Abraham are also to become a nation, but not through a common land, but again only through God.
Abraham's spirit is to repeat itself in his descendants: what their country is to other nations, that, you yourself are to be to your descendants. With their descent from you they are also to inherit the uniting element that forms a nation. By the fact that, still today, we call our God Elokey Avraham. God as Abraham knew him, as He revealed Himself to him, showed Himself in the guidance of his life — and we need this designation, not as a God Who shows us any particular favor, but, on the contrary, just to keep the Abrahamitic and most comprehensive conception of God as Koineh shomaim v’aretz, clear from any tendency of particularization — by this common heritage that we have received from Abraham we are a people still to-day long after we have lost the bond of a common country. And in the fact that not only Abraham, but that also his son and his grandson became such personalities in whose lives God's direction was so manifest that they too remained models for the whole Jewish nation and we speak not only of Elokey Avraham but also of Elokey Yitzchok and Elokey Yaakov, in that our sages see primarily the blessing and the greatness that Abraham attained. And just in Elokey Yaakov the V’egadla shemecha becomes realized. In Jacob's fate and position in the world above all is the example given that the Jewish calling is independent of outward greatness and outward show. The less a man has the greater does his personality appear. The greatness, the blessing that a person without means spreads can only be attributed to his personality. If a Yaakov is great, if a nation becomes outstanding, which for centuries has won no fame by battles etc. then this prominence can only be due to their spiritual personality, just Yaakov is megadol shemecha.
Considered more closely, the whole sum of Jewish history is given to Abraham in a nutshell in these three sentences. In Lech lecha meieretz, Abraham appears merely as an individual "dare to be alone, to stand by yourself". In v’escha l’goy, the nation already appears, but still by itself and without external contact or relation to the rest of the world. In v’avrechehu, the Jewish nation is shown in connection with other nations, the blessing of Abraham Is already dependent on others blessing him, yea others can already venture to curse him. Abraham's task was to isolate himself, to live alone with God. Then a second stage, to create a people out of this Abraham. If it is to come to pass that the existence of this people is to be a second creation of God's in history then this people can only come to be a nation by Way of homelessness, of golus and geirus.(…).
God can bless people and nations, but that they shall attain such spiritual greatness to become called a model man, a model nation, that God can only I wish, that depends on the faithful loyalty which is given to the laws of God. In the same way it does not say veheyisa brocha or vetihye brocha but vehiye brocha -  "become a blessing".
In these two words the whole moral task is summarized the accomplishment of which is the condition for the fulfillment of God's wish. "O that your name should become great, that you become a blessing". I would make you into a nation to which other nations have only to look to become conscious of what their task is, and this task, which you are to accomplish, in contrast to the efforts of all other nations, is "to become a blessing"!
All others strive, not lihyos brocha, to be a blessing, but lihyos berochim to be blessed. And this is especially the case with nations. The honesty, humanity and love which one still demands from individuals is regarded as folly in the relation of nation to nation, have no meaning in diplomacy and politics. Deception and murder which in individuals lead to prison and gallows, if exercised on a grand, scale in the "interests of the state " are crowned with laurel and medals. The Abrahamitic nation is to know nothing of a these national institutions, is to have no national politics and, no political economy. The One Who would be the bearer of their national prosperity need give no subsidies, has not to reckon on any coalitions or treaties. At His command rain and sunshine, strength and life, power and victory stand. Im bechukoysay saylayhu, is the one condition, then everything else goes by I itself. In the midst of a world of men who stamp naaseh lanu shem as the motto I on all their endeavors, and self-aggrandizement and ruthless extension of their own well-being the deciding goal for all their efforts, the People of Abraham, are, in private and public life to follow the one calling: hoya brocha - to become a blessing. To dedicate themselves with all devotion to the Divine purpose of bringing happiness to the world and mankind, thereby as models, to re-establish Man to its original pure calling of adam - man, then God will grant His blessing to fresh activity of life and to the awakening and education of the nations to similar efforts and make the name of the People of Abraham shine forth far afield : v’avrechecha v’egadlah shemecho. This second stage was to have become a reality in Eretz Yisrael, there Israel was to have become in its isolation not only the blessed nation, but in the first place, the spreader of blessing, a source of blessing, a well from which the world would draw its blessing — vayishkon Yisroel betach budod ayin Yaakov, Had we lived up to our mission, then all that, which only beckons to us b’acharis hayomim, in the distant future, would have been realized thousands of years ago, and the history of the world would have worn a very different aspect.
But this first promise to Abraham seems to point to a third stage. We have already remarked that the optional v’agadloh makes the realization of the second stage, not a definite promise, but only a conditional wish that the promise could be fulfilled.
Now the third clause seems to indicate a stage in which the blessing or the reverse of the Abrahamic people would be dependent on men, where men would have the power to bless them, men the power to curse them. This would be the stage of golus which would await this people if they would forget their mission, and instead of striving lehiyos brocha would give themselves up, like the other nations lehiyos berochim. And here for this Golus, where it is scattered amongst the nations and dependent on them and apparently abandoned to them for their blessings and curses, God pronounces this weighty Word : v’avarcha mevarachecha "those that bless thee, will I bless", those that bless you, help you, who recognize and appreciate your principles, and submit to your moral sensibility and your honoring God, those will I bless. Here too the optional is again used, may Israel behave in the dispersion in such a manner that furthering their well-being may mean furthering the well-being and happiness of the nations in general.

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