Our view of the Galile

Friday, October 22, 2010

Parshat Lech Lecha -Lama? Kacha

Insights and Inspiration
 from the
  Holy Land
From Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
 “Your friend in Karmiel”
October 15th 2010 -Volume I, Issue 3– 8th of Cheshvan 5771
Parshat Lech Lecha
Lama? Kacha
It is one of those initiation rituals that every new immigrant to Israel must go through. It’s a short conversation that repeats itself numerous times for the first few weeks, months and for those really slow and stubborn Americans even years after one makes Aliyah the conversation still continues. It occurs, generally when one comes with their rather rational, logical and western-oriented perspective of the world, and how things are done. All of a sudden you are confronted with something that doesn’t seem to mesh with those basic ideals that you were accustomed to all your life. You turn to the man in the government office who is being paid by your tax money, or the storeowner who should be interested enough in your business and basic customer service concepts, or the bank who should want you to deposit your money there, or the phone company (or any utility company for that matter) who for some reason just never seem to be open, available or for that matter even interested in explaining any of their policies, hours, or what all those papers you are signing mean.
So you ask, as they taught you in all those commercials about being an educated consumer, the simple question “Lamah?- Why?” Why are you never open? Why can’t this be processed? Why am I being charged these fees? Why does it say one thing here and another thing there? Why is everyone else in this office being helped and I am not? Lamah? Lamah? Lamah?
And then comes the Aliyah- hey-Dorothy-you’re no longer in Kansas- moment. The person looks at you as if you are a three year old that has just asked them to reveal the specific details of the mechanics of Israel ’s nuclear facilities and their weapons capability, and then they respond with that one word-most frustrating of all responses-
Kachah- that’s the way it is.
You, being a very perplexed American, feel like they have misunderstood your question, which was obviously just a very basic one, which certainly deserved an adult answer. So you show off your Hebrew and add that extra two words that you are sure  will resolve this whole issue as you ask again
“Aval- Lamah-Bivakasha”- But why please?
It is to no avail.
The answer is still
Kachah- because it is.
Welcome to the country where pointless questions-which you quickly learn your “lamas” are-will inevitably always give you meaningless answers. Why? Kachah.
This weeks Torah potion perhaps sheds a little light into this strange Israeli mentality as we begin to learn the story of the first Hebrew/Israelite ever; our forefather Avraham Avinu. We are introduced to Avraham at ripe young age of 75 as Hashem appears to him and tells him to pick up his family leave everything behind and go to a foreign land where he is promised all types of good things. Avraham incredibly enough does so. What is missing in this story, is the unasked question- Lamah? Why should I go? Avraham just goes.
Next on the agenda of what will be the ten tests of Avraham that continue through next weeks Torah portion, is the famine in Israel . He is forced to leave the country God had previously told him about. Again no Lamah. His wife Sarah is kidnapped no Lamah. His nephew the son of his deceased brother whom he adopted leaves him- no Lamah. He goes to World War to protect that nephew- there is no questions. He remains childless from Sarai, he has all types of problems with this Egyptian maidservant and child his wife convinced him to take, and yet amazingly enough there is never once the question of why am I doing this, why is this happening. Avraham is a “Kachah Man”. It is what it is and whatever Hashem throws at me, that’s what is best for me.
Finally at the conclusion of this weeks Torah portion Hashem gives him one last commandment, which incidentally becomes the first Jewish Mitzvah in the Torah (up until this point all the commandments were Noachide and universal). Avraham is commanded in the Eternal covenant of Circumcision- Brit Mila. Not the most of fun of Mitzvot at any age but certainly not a picnic at the age of 99 and without the benefit of anesthesia. Yet the way the commandment is formed is truly fascinating.
“Hithalech Lifonai Vheyeh Tamim”-Walk before me and be Tamim- which can mean both complete and or perfect.
The Ibn Ezra, the great 12th century commentator and philosopher, explains the notion of the Temimut the perfection of Avraham here in that he does not ask. “Walk before me”, “Do as I tell you”, Hashem is telling him “And don’t ask me why”. Kachah. That is the test of Avraham. In fact, that is the core of all the tests of Avraham, and it is in that merit that we received the Land of Israel and that we remain eternal.
If one examines 3000 years of Jewish history from Avraham until today it is certain you will have a lot of questions. How is possible that we are still around? Why has this nation survived? Almost everything about the Jewish people and its history is beyond rational. Our existence makes no sense. We are a nation with only one answer to the Lamah…Kachah. It is because Hashem has thus commanded us. It is because our forefather didn’t ask questions, he just did.
It’s been almost two months since I have been living here and I have begun to train myself to stop asking that question. (Although it is quite challenging when I have traveled two hours to the office to process my license to the office which is only open twice a week for two hours in the afternoon, only to find out that the person who processes the licenses is only in the during the twice a week morning hoursL). The truth is they are right. It doesn’t pay to ask. It is what it is and we have to accept it go with the flow and count our blessings that at least we got a weekly Email out of the story J. The Mishnah in Avot tells us that the more we nullify our will to His, He will make our will His will. May He who has all the answers above bring that day very soon when no one will have anymore questions and we will all be living the Kachah we were meant to.
Have a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach- A blessed and peaceful Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

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