Parshat Lech Lecha: Jewish Social Justice Vs. The Gentiles’ Approach
This week’s parsha, Lech Lecha, is centered around our forefather Avraham’s travels from his hometown of Ur Kasdim to the Land of Cana’an. Perhaps the most important aspect of Avraham’s hashkafa–his world view, is the emphasis he places on kindness and social justice. Harkening to Hashem’s call for him to “go from (his) land, his birthplace and his father’s house” and travel to a “place that I will show you,” in fact, places Avraham at the mercy of Hashem and allows him to bestow kindness on everyone he meets along his journey.
Leaving everything behind and sojourning to a distant land that he’s never been to (as my parents did when we immigrated from the USSR to the U.S.) is the first “test” presented by G-d to Avraham in order for the latter to prove his all-encompassing emunah-trust/belief in Hashem.
The act of Aliya is a key component of the Jewish people’s (it’s written that “מעשה אבות סימן לבנים”–the behavior of our forefathers should set a precedent for our behavior) tikkun olam—literally “fixing the world” with our acts of charity and random kindness–as well as the Jewish path towards ensuring social justice. The sojourn from the galut to the Land of Israel is also the centerpiece of Zionist ideology. Yes, Avraham was the first Zionist!
Avraham’s mission in the world extends far beyond the first Aliya. Avraham’s central character component is חסד–kindness. He shows kindness in his encounter with Pharaoh when he allows the Egyptian monarch to get away unscathed after the latter kidnaps Sarah. He allows his nephew, Lot to pick the best part of the Land when the two of them choose to go their separate ways. He treats the three angels, who visit him to inform him and Sarah that they will destroy Sdom and that Isaac will be born, (parshat Va’yera) with an abundance of kindness.
Avraham’s kindness is always לשם שמים–for the sake of Heaven. In other words, Avraham doesn’t expect to reap benefit from his acts; he’s kind for the sake of being kind. Avraham is also a self-made man. He leaves his father’s home with little or no belongings and makes a fortune for himself. He does this through his own hard work.
Two of the lessons that we can learn from parshat Lech Lecha are:
1. Random acts of kindness are a way of improving the world.
2. Hard work pays off.
This is the key to social justice. We must perpetuate the lessons of the Bible to instill the concept of Jewish social justice in our society.
Every time I happen to be in Tel-Aviv, I’m struck by the sight of an increasing amount of “protest” tents on Arlozorov across from the Central Train Station. As I was taking some pictures of these tents yesterday, I had an elderly lady approach me and tell me that I should “talk to them; support them”–instead of taking pictures. I told her that I support our government–and not them; that I don’t have a job either but while I’m actively looking for employment, they’re wasting their time.
What it comes down to is that we have two polar world views at play: the Gentile world view on one hand–and the Jewish world view on the other; the Jewish concept of social justice and the Gentile approach.
We should all learn the concept that if we’re to succeed, we must be kind towards our fellow man, but also towards ourselves. We must perform acts of random kindness and give tzeddaka; but also put in the time to develop our character traits as well as our economic standing. We must be kind towards our friends and our people–not the wicked who try to destroy us at every turn.
Wishing all of כלל ישראל–and the rest of the world a Shabbat shalom from Jerusalem, center of the universe!!!