05 Nov Parashat Lech-Lecha: We Are Always G-D’s Children
The Torah in Parashat Lech-Lecha tells the story of Abraham Abinu’s sojourn in Egypt, where he was forced to relocate due to a famine which struck the land of Canaan. While he and Sara were in Egypt, Sara was abducted by Pharaoh. That night, we read, G-d punished Pharaoh and his household with various afflictions, compelling Pharaoh to return Sara and then send Abraham out of Egypt with great wealth.
The Ramban (Rabbi Moshe Nahmanides, Spain, 1194-1270), in a famous passage, notes how this episode served the purpose of “Ma’aseh Abot Siman La’banim” – establishing events that Abraham’s descendants would experience. Abraham’s descendants, too, would go to Egypt to escape a famine in Eretz Yisrael, and they would be mistreated and tormented by the Egyptians. G-d would then afflict the Egyptians and force them to send Beneh Yisrael away with great wealth.
After making this point, the Ramban proceeds to make a very surprising comment, writing (based on the Zohar) that Abraham sinned by moving to Egypt. Rather than remaining in Canaan and trusting that Hashem that would sustain him during the years of harsh drought, Abraham left the land promised to him by Hashem and went to Egypt, placing himself and his wife at risk.
There is much to be said about this comment of the Ramban, but the question we ask here is why the Ramban makes this point in the context of his discussion of “Ma’aseh Abot Siman La’banim.” The Ramban in this passage speaks of how Abraham’s experiences in Egypt foreshadow the experiences of his descendants. How is the fact that Abraham sinned by going to Egypt relevant to this discussion?
The answer is that this, too, is part of the “Ma’aseh Abot Siman La’banim.” Despite the fact that Abraham acted incorrectly by going to Egypt, nevertheless, G-d harshly punished Pharaoh for abducting Sara and saw to it that Abraham would leave Egypt with wealth. Similarly, even though Beneh Yisrael were not necessarily deserving of the miracles of the Exodus, G-d struck the Egyptians with ten plagues for enslaving Beneh Yisrael, and brought them out of Egypt as they carried all the country’s treasures. The model established by Abraham was not merely that of slavery and redemption, but also that of G-d’s unconditional love for His people. Even when we are unworthy, He still cares for us and is prepared to help and protect us.
This is something which is vitally important for all of us to know and be mindful of. Parents do not abandon their children, even when their children misbehave. We are all Hashem’s children, and He never abandons us. Even when we make mistakes, He is still there helping us, and He is always waiting for us to improve and return to Him. A person should never feel that G-d no longer cares about him and is not interested in having a relationship with him. A parent might become upset with a child and punish him, but he still loves him and will continue caring for him and helping him. And this is precisely Hashem’s relationship to us. Even if we’ve slipped and made mistakes, He is still here with us and will always be here with us.