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Rabbi Jon's Reflection on This Week's Torah Portion

10.27.2023

Protecting Those We Love: Kidnapping in Our Torah

A short reflection on Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1 - 17:27) 

A war occurs in this week’s parasha, Lech Lecha. It is a war where invaders take innocent victims and force those that love them to battle for their safety. The hero is our ancestor Abram, soon to be renamed Abraham.  He lives in the land of Canaan near the Terebinths of Mamre. The victim of the kidnapping? His nephew Lot who resides in the town of Sodom, down the street from the city of Gomorrah. Like Abram, Lot was a wealthy and successful man. 

Our Torah teaches us (Genesis 14:11-12), “[The invaders] seized all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, and his possessions, and departed; for he had settled in Sodom.” It seems invaders took that which did not belong to them and even kidnapped innocent victims. They captured Lot and his people in order to expand their property, in hopes of further enriching themselves. There was no sense of propriety, just a desire to fulfill one’s own needs and a hope for additional ransom. 

But, instead of paying a bribe, Abraham takes a small force and overwhelms his nephew’s captors. As the story teaches (Genesis 14:14-15), “At night, he [Abram] and his servants deployed against them and defeated them; and he pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He brought back all the possessions; he also brought back his kinsman Lot and his possessions, and the women and the rest of the people.” Abraham’s actions defended against injustice and an inhumane act – the act of kidnapping.

Jewish history is filled with laws regarding kidnapping. To put it simply, as a Jew you must redeem other Jews. It is a sacred responsibility. During many past periods, it was commonplace for entire Jewish communities to be imprisoned while their jailors demanded payment for their release from nearby Jewish communities. While many cases exist, my mind turns to Blois, France in 1171 where the entire community was slaughtered because a ransom was not paid quickly enough by the surrounding villages. For generations, the only way to redeem a kidnap victim was to pay the ransom. Today, Israel has other options, though many can lead to dangerous outcomes including the death of the original captives or an attempt by terrorist groups like Hamas to capture additional human beings.

This story illustrates the heroism of our originating ancestor, Abram. He did not hesitate when it came to rescuing his extended family. We see this play out in the Hamas terrorist attack as Israel does what it must to protect not just the kidnap victims, but also the citizens of our Jewish nation. Today the IDF can take a stand and safeguard Israel, unlike past periods in history when we had no way to defend ourselves or to take security into our own hands. 

As Jews,  we are responsible for the safety of our people wherever they live. In this moment, we  witness the outpouring of support from the World Jewish community toward our captured brethren. May their lives be saved and may their psyches be healed from the terrorism of a group of “invaders.” It is only when human beings can live safely without the fear of bigotry and prejudice, that we can all share in the bounty of this world.  In a world where barbarism exists, Jews must take take action to stop even the hint of genocide. 

May the day come where we can live in peace with everyone – Oseh Shalom Bimromav, hu yaaseh shalom alenu v’al kol yisrael v’al kol yoshvei tevel v’imeru…. Amen.

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LECH LECHA SUMMARY FROM THE URJ

  • Abram, Sarai, and Lot go to Canaan. (12:1-9)

  • Famine takes them to Egypt, where Abram identifies Sarai as his sister in order to save his life. (12:10-20)

  • Abram and Lot separate. Lot is taken captive, and Abram rescues him. (13:1-14:24)

  • Abram has a son, Ishmael, with his Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. (16:1-16)

  • God establishes a covenant with Abram. The sign of this covenant is circumcision on the eighth day following a male baby's birth. (17:1-27)

For more on this Torah portion from the URJ go to: https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/lech-lcha

 


 

Sat, March 2 2024 22 Adar I 5784