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

Gematria: Separating From Parents Who Are in Error

An Attempt To Understand SEPARATION ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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In the past two weeks one of our themes was separation. In Parshas Bereishis we observed how Hashem separated and divided between the righteous and the evil, between day and night and between periods of time. In Parshas Noach we learned of the Torah concept "religious purity." How Jewish parents should be cautious who their children associate with and marry. The first requirement is also the minimum requirement. Our children should marry another Jew. Any compromise of this basic requirement by Jews feeds assimilation and contributes to the death of Judaism. We learned that the righteous family line running for ten generations from Adam to Noach was quickly breaking down after just 1,656 years. There were three evidences of this breakdown that resulted in the destruction of the world: First, intermarriage of the righteous descendants of Sheis with the unrighteous descendants of Kayin. Second, forced physical relations between angels and the daughters of men that produced Nephilim, abnormal beings, giants with spiritual powers who were worshipped by other inhabitants of the earth. Third, the covenant was only with Noach. He was the only one singled out by Hashem as deserving. His family was spared for his sake.

These facts are the basis that we draw from as we move forward 292 years to Avram's birth in 1948 B.C.E. with Parshas Lech Lecha. In Parasha Lech Lecha we will learn an additional type of separation that Avraham Avienu experienced. The parsha begins with words of separation to Avram. Go! Get out! Lech Lecha.

Avram's Three Separations
Avram was commanded by Hashem to separate "from your land" May-Ahr-tz-Kah, "from your birthplace / relatives" Oo-Mem-Voh-Lad-TeKah "and from the house of your father" Oo-Me-Bays Ah-VeKah . This separation seemed quite difficult for Avram. Generally if things around us are righteous we should be attracted to them and not separated from them.

Separate from Your Land
May-Ahr-tz-Kah is rendered "from your country" or "from your land" by most translations into English. This in effect implies boundaries. Your land begins and ends somewhere. One cannot leave his land unless he knows the boundaries. Avram was still within the boundaries of Ur Kasdim and Charan. He was still within reach. He was within touch of his land. In other words Avram was still within the grasp of his past. He had not crossed the boundaries of the past heading into the future yet. Generally most people do well within boundaries, 9 to 5, Mon. thru Fri., etc. However there are some people who are referred to as individuals in the truest since of the word who do not fit within a boundary. Hashem was pushing Avram outside his boundaries. Avram's boundaries were holding him back. The Midrash compares Avram to a sealed bottle of perfume that Hashem removed the seal from, shook up and permeated the world with.

Next we observe that the constraint was Avram's own doing. The boundaries were his own self imposed boundaries. It was "his land." The Midrash expresses Avram's concern, "How can I forsake my old father? I have taught others to be kind and considerate. Shall I now leave my father alone? Will Your Name not be desecrated?" Avraham objected to changing his boundaries!

Normally self imposed boundaries like drinking, eating, working, resting and temperament, etc. are often good. Boundaries often represent protection and comfort.

However in Avram's situation boundaries were stifling. It seems Avram's self imposed boundaries were out of respect to G-d in honor of his father. Avram inclumbered his life with more fences than he needed. This fastidiousness was inhibiting Hashem's purpose for his life.

This is an indiscretion baal teshuva's often make in there zealousness to emulate Hashem. In honor of G-d we attempt to reclaim more territory than we can defend. We find ourselves in a situation where we have biten off more that we can chew causing us to choke. Being too stern at first is like trying to be an adult at twelve. We need time to learn and develop. Like Avram, we with good intentions impose all these boundaries in our lives and the lives of those around us before we are ready. Remember Avram's unnecessarily strict observance hindered him as ours will also. In other words, we need to grow at a constant rate. We need a balanced diet.

Before establishing boundaries one needs to learn the Creator's intention for boundaries. G-d created "Light {Torah knowledge}" in Genesis 1:5. We discussed this in Parsha Bereishis, "The Pleasure of the Revelation of G-d {Enlightenment}." Then after G-d revealed enlightenment He separated it from darkness. So here was this incredible revelation from Hashem but it was not for everyone or everything at that time. Notice that G-d saw "The Es- Ha-Ohr" meaning, everything about His revelation of HIS LIGHT was good. It was at this precise point that G-d separated His revelation from darkness which did not have the affirmation of "GOOD". This teaches us there is a time to separate, a place to separate and an object to be separated from. Notice that the "LIGHT" was separated from the darkness and not the other way around. G-d placed boundaries on His Light... on His revelation... on our enlightenment. Now G-d declared His Light... His revelation was "GOOD". Yet G-d placed boundaries on His His Light... His Revelation... Why would G-d place boundaries on anything that He has declared "GOOD?" Why is it that everyone and everything cannot enjoy what G-d has declared as good?

Now we are reaching the place where Avram was. It was good to be kind and considerate to his father. It was good to be concerned about leaving his father alone. It was good to show concern about not desecrating G-d's Name.

However just as G-d commanded light to be separated from darkness G-d commanded Avram to leave his father.

Separate from Your Relatives
Oo-Mem-Voh-Lad-TeKah is rendered "from your birthplace or relatives" by most translations into English. This in effect implies influence. This seems like a peculiar dictate. Why would Hashem want Avram to separate from his relatives? In this scenario there is a need for more fences. Why? Who are more intrusive and more invading than relatives? Relatives have the power to embarrass us, humiliate us and control us. It is for this reason that we must be careful around relatives. This is not to imply all relatives are like this or to imply relatives are bad. Simply put, Hashem wants to be the center of our sphere of our influence. It is difficult for us to break away from our past if we have relatives clinging to it. Why do boys go to a Yeshiva to learn? Why do many Yeshivas separate the bucherim from living with their families? Everyone needs the opportunity to concentrate and to develop within a guarded atmosphere. Even though the intention of our relatives are good they interrupt our concentration and the atmosphere of our learning. As a result a fence of isolation is often required. Constructing this fence takes many different forms. Rabbi Elie Munk states it well, "The call to separate oneself from homeland, birthplace [relatives] and father's house constituted the first step toward the realization of Judaism. To be a Jew means to break with 'the crowd' out of love for G-d and to accept the sacrifice of isolation."

The ethical value of the principle of isolation has been brought out by R' Bachya ibn Pakuda, author of Chovos Halevavos (Duties of the Heart), in Part III, 5 (dialogue between reason and the heart).

The Divine command "go for yourself, " is put at the head of Judaism. It implies the will to go it alone with G-d if need be. The idea of 'majority rule' is indeed legitimate, but when the majority's values do not meet the criterion of Divine truth, man has the duty to separate himself and to remain 'alone for himself' and with his G-d."

So we now learn a very important principle about relatives and even parents. While it is good to show concern for one's parents it is even greater to live in an unintruding atmosphere where Hashem is the complete center of our focus. In other words, one should consider establishing boundaries around the things...the good things...if others {like parents, et al.} intrude on our space with Hashem...No disrespect intended.

Separate from Your Father's House
Oo-Me-Bays Ah-VeKah is rendered "and from [the] house of your father" by most translations into English. This in effect implies control. Our fathers are our teachers whether for good or for bad. We are under their sphere of control for many years. As a result it is difficult to separate from the umbilical cord of one's need to seek father's approval and in many cases mother's... This is not to suggest that we should ignore, disrespect or dishonor our fathers. The simple fact is we must grow up. We must learn to seek Hashem's approval in place of our fathers' approval. Our fathers are our teachers. They protect, correct and provide for our needs. They are responsible to
G-d to direct us and to use their influence to guide us in Torah. Yet, so often direction and guidance results in control which is not good. It is at that point that Hashem says, Lech Lecha 'Go, get out, go for yourself '... This is not to say that we don't need our fathers.

Unfortunately Avram's father, Terach, was an idol maker. He was an idol worshipper. That being the circumstance, where a very less than perfect setting exists, where an approval of "Good" is clearly absent, SEPARATION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN SUCH AN ISSUE! Separation should have been the norm! If a parent believes in Jesus then separation is the norm. If a parent disapproves of Torah observance then separation is the norm. There is no point to opening the door to abuse from parents who believe in Jesus or parents who do not observe the Torah!! Hashem commands us to observe separation from parents like that. That is a much lower level of separation than what Hashem created in genesis 1:5...

Even though it was Avram's desire to emulate Hashem it should not be at the cost of his own righteousness! We could expand on the "What if's"... What if Avram had stayed with his father.. Where would we be today? Where would Judaism be? As a result Hashem had to pry Avram away from his father. It was not only for Avram's good but for the good of the entire world.

The Direction of Lech Lecha
Only twice in all Tenach are the words Lech Lecha found. Both occurrences nudged Avram closer to righteousness. Consider the Gematria of the command, Lech Lecha. Notice the direction of the letters of Lech Lecha in their normal state (see first blue box at top of page). They move from the left to the right. The Chof at 20 moves to the right towards the Lamed at 30. This represents Avram traveling closer to Hashem. This results in the birth of Yitzchok. The Gematria of Lech is 50. The Gematria of Ve-Yeh-Led which means "and a young man, child" is also fifty. Just as Lech is followed by Lecha, a repeat of Lech to place emphasis on "Go" making it "Go, Get out!" the same can be said for Ve-Yeh-Led (see first green box at top of page).

However, if we were to switch the Mispar Gadol, the Chof would be 500 instead of 20. Then the Lamed which is 30 would travel from the right toward the Chof on the left. The entire result would be different. The Gematria would be 530, emphasized twice (see first yellow box at top of page). When a word is repeated twice as in Lech Lacha it takes on forcefulness! As a result this would represent Avram going GREATLY against Hashem by moving away from the right. This would result in another Gematria of 530 Ah-Ree-Reem meaning "CHILDLESS" (see second blue box at top of page). Rashi notes the benefit of following Hashem's direction. "There[I will] make you a great nation, but here you will not merit the privilege of having children."

The normal Gematria of Lech Lecha also represents that Avraham would be 100 years old when Yitzchok was born. It also represented that Avram would live 100 years beyond his present age of 75.

As a side note, anyone who requests "A View From Beyond" will receive a Gematria nugget via E-Mail that connects Avram to Genesis 1:5. (Please reference Parshas Lech Lecha.) First, see if you can make the connection. E-Mail your thoughts to me.

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Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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