By Esther M. Schonfeld, Esq.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
I fondly remember my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Abramovsky, at Yeshiva Dov Revel, having us memorize the first few verses of ParashatLechLecha. While I was proud to be able to recite it back then, it wasn’t until I was older that I recognized how important the lessons from this parashah are and why she had us memorize that verse. Two weeks ago, I made it to shul in time to hear the leining of the parashah and couldn’t help but notice how relevant Avraham’s story and the lessons we learn from it are to the lives we lead in the 21st century.
ParashatLechLecha is special because it teaches us that while we, the children of Israel, will often be faced with obstacles which may seem impossible to overcome, we must never give up hope. The power of tefillah is more rewarding than we can ever really know. Avraham and Sarah were childless for many years and had long since reached a stage in their lives when most people would have given up any and all hope of having a child; yet, they continued to hope and pray. Eventually, G-d promises Avraham and Sarah that they will not only have a son, but that Avraham will be the father of the Jewish nation, with descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky. The message of hope in this part of the parashah is extremely powerful. Avraham and Sarah remained faithful to G-d and, in the end, came to know that no obstacle is too difficult to overcome–nothing is too hard to accomplish.
LechLecha begins with G-d telling Avraham, “Lech Lecha me’artzecha u’mi’molade’techa u’mi’beit avicha el ha’aretz asher ar’eka–Go from your land, from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Avraham was told to just pick up and leave everyone and everything that he had ever known. Avraham had complete faith and trust in Hashem, so he obeyed. The rest, as they say, is history. From this we learn a lot about change, something I am sure most of you would agree is more often than not uncomfortable to deal with. As we are often forced to move away from comfort and familiarity (be it willingly or reluctantly) towards new and unfamiliar things, we must continue to hope and pray that these changes will be for the better.
The Zohar explains that Avraham and Yitzchak went through one of the most difficult kinds of changes–a complete role reversal. Avraham typified the attribute of chesed, loving-kindness. This is demonstrated by his hachnassatorchim. Yitzchak is the attribute of gevurah, severity and judgment. When Avraham, the master of love, kindness, and chesed, was asked to sacrifice his own son, he had to take on Yitzchak’s persona and act with gevurah. Yitzchak, on the other hand, had to take on Avraham’s attribute of chesed and unconditionally love his father despite his own impending death. This is the challenge often mirrored in marriage, where we sometimes need to take on our spouse’s persona or role to be there for them and understand them. This give-and-take is one of the most difficult challenges of a marriage. The story of Avraham is one of spiritual sacrifice as much as it is physical sacrifice. Avraham was willing to give up everything–his own son, his religion (all the converts he made surely would have left after seeing him sacrifice his own son), possibly his wife–all for his love of and devotion to Hashem.
As a divorce attorney, I often deal with change, which is traumatic to some and welcomed by others. My clients who are unable to save their marriages face huge obstacles in dealing with the upcoming changes in their lives. As attorneys, we must help them deal with these changes any way that we can, and continue to hope and pray that the changes are for the better.
Avraham was faced with an uphill battle, standing alone against the entire world with his religious beliefs. But, as the parashah explains, he succeeded nonetheless. Avraham’s tests in this parashah teach us some vital lessons that will forever remain relevant and applicable to our everyday lives. So, thank you to my third-grade teacher for showing me when I was just eight years old the beauty of this parashah. May Hashem continue to bless us all with the strength to never give up hope and to always look forward to the future.
Esther M. Schonfeld, Esq., is a partner with the law firm of Schonfeld & Goldring, LLP with offices located at 112 Spruce Street, Suite A, Cedarhurst, New York 11516. The attorneys at Schonfeld & Goldring, LLP limit their practice to divorce law, family law, and matrimonial law in both secular court and rabbinical courts. The law firm represents clients located in the five boroughs, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and Rockland County in all aspects of family and matrimonial law with resolution through litigation, mediation, and collaborative law. Ms. Schonfeld, also a trained mediator, is a member of the NY State Council on Divorce Mediation.