Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lech Lecha: "And he Called Up his Troops"

When Lot was kidnapped by the alliance of four Kings, Abram was dragged into a battle he would have liked to side-step. He realized that even with all his students (ignoring the midrash that he went to battle with only his trusted servant by his side), he was, most probably, laying down his life. In fact, the midrash plays on the word, 'vayarek', by saying it means 'he greened their faces,' by ordering them into a battle they could not expect to win.

Abram did not feel assured of victory because of his relationship with the Almighty. He realized that his life was to be used in God's service, and if that meant death, then so be it. In short, he had no illusions that doing the right thing would automatically lead to short-term positive results.

This is a lesson that is deceptively simple to learn. So many stories, from midrash down to Hassidic tale, engrain in our minds from a young age that, if we do what God wants, he will immediately make everything work out to our benefit.

The lessons of these stories must be made clear to children, that it is not in the short-term that good will necessarily lead to positive results, but in the long-term, larger picture, that it will. If we expect immmediate reward, we set ourselves up for disappointment, failure, and, Heaven forbid, rejection of the concepts of reward and punishment.