11 Heshvan 5779 – Lech-Lecha

Are you a fence-sitter? Do you sometimes struggle to make up your mind?

I recall sitting in a lecture given by the head of the RAAF Richmond Airbase, where our commander instructed us ‘to make a decision’. He urged us to use our best judgement in making our decisions and then to go ahead and just make it. If it is a wrong decision, we would learn for next time, but just make the call and go for it! I think there is a lot of merit in such an outlook.

This was one of the great traits exhibited by Abraham who we will read about over Shabbat. He was a man who had a vision and didn’t stop until he fulfilled his mission. In contrast, his brother Haran was a man who suffered from indecision and it was this that lead to his downfall.

The Midrash explains that when Abraham was thrown into Nimrod’s fiery pit after destroying his father’s idols, Haran was standing by the side awaiting the outcome. He told himself: If Abraham is saved from the flames, I will go with him. If he is not, I will reject his beliefs. After Abraham survived, he, too, proclaimed to follow the ways of G-d. So Nimrod threw him into the same pit and he was burned.

Further, we see Haran’s character and destiny in his very name. The Hebrew Aleph Bet is comprised of units (1-9), tens (10-90) and hundreds (100-400). If you take the middle letter of each set (5, 50, 200) and convert it to its Hebrew equivalent (Hei, Nun, Resh) you will discover something amazing. These letters spell the name ‘Haran’!

Haran was the indecisive person. He was not a man of conviction. To be a Jew, a child of Abraham means to know who we are, why we are here and then to commit ourselves to action every day of our lives.

Wishing you and your families Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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