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The theme or message of Parshat Lech Lecha is the physical and spiritual separation of the Jew, set in motion from the dawn of our national history. The Torah ordained the destiny of the Jew as to remain separate and alone from all other nations. Balaam recognized this, proclaiming that the Jewish nation dwells alone and does not count itself among the other nations of the world. This separation began with the parshah’s initial story of Abraham leaving Charan, followed by additional stories detailing Abraham’s further separation. He separates from Egypt, separates from his family, including Terach and Lot. He refuses to partake in the spoils of victory over the 4 kings, relying on G-d’s promise to grant him great wealth. While he has a son, Ishmael, with Hagar, he is informed that he must ultimately separate from him as well, since his future offspring, Isaac, will inherit the covenant G-d established with him. The parshah culminates with brit milah, the eternal guarantee of connection between G-d, land and people.

Abraham understood that with brit milah, the Jew embarked on a unique lifestyle and destiny, separated from the rest of the world. After circumcision, there will no longer be 71 nations. There are now 70 nations on one side and one nation on the other. The Jew will always be excluded from membership in the “united nations.” Abraham was afraid of being alone, separate from the other nations. G-d promised him that because of brit milah, He will protect and always be with him, saying, “Ani Kel Shakai” – I am the all-capable G-d. G-d’s alliance with Abraham will be far superior to any alliance he may forge with other nations. The merit of brit milah guaranteed Abraham, and his descendants, permanent rights to Eretz Yisrael. The covenant uniting G-d, the unique, separate People of Israel and the unique, separate Land of Israel drives Jewish destiny. It defines the Jew while simultaneously cloaking him in an enigma that separates him from the rest of the world.

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Rabbi Joshua Rapps attended the Rav's shiur at RIETS from 1977 through 1981 and is a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He and his wife Tzipporah live in Edison, N.J. Rabbi Rapps can be contacted at [email protected].