Sunday, November 06, 2011

If Abraham won't come to the mountain...

Summary: then the mountain will come to Abraham. So explains the Or HaChaim. Plus, other ways of explaining the pasuk, on the level of peshat.

Post: In parashat Lech Lecha:

14. And the Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Please raise your eyes and see, from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward.יד. וַי־הֹוָ־ה אָמַר אֶל אַבְרָם אַחֲרֵי הִפָּרֶד לוֹט מֵעִמּוֹ שָׂא נָא עֵינֶיךָ וּרְאֵה מִן הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה שָׁם צָפֹנָה וָנֶגְבָּה וָקֵדְמָה וָיָמָּה

15. For all the land that you see I will give to you and to your seed to eternity.טו. כִּי אֶת כָּל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה רֹאֶה לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה וּלְזַרְעֲךָ עַד עוֹלָם:

Avraham was going to get the entirety of the land, and here Hashem promises everything that he can see. Is there a contradiction here? Or Hachaim sees one, and resolves it with a midrash of his own creation:

"Behold, it is known that the measure of a person's vision is limited by that which he can see by the light of the sun. And here, Hashem made for him a miracle, that the edges of the land drew near, and he saw everything. And while this was going on, he also acquired {החזיק, performed chazaka} in all the land, for there is no greater chazaka than this, that a rock moves from its place to draw near before the master of the land. And this matter should not seem remote to you, for we find that the land folded up {for kefitzat haderech, allowing for fast travel} for his servant {Eliezer} and it was also folded up beneath his sons."

This works nicely on a midrashic level. On a peshat level, perhaps we can say that he did in fact see the entirety of the land; or rather, enough of the land in each direction to represent that direction; or, it is an idiom, that everything in all directions for quite a while will belong to Avraham; or, only as far as the eye can see, though of course Avraham also received more.

The context of this havtacha was Avraham's offer to Lot:

8. And Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no quarrel between me and between you and between my herdsmen and between your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.ח. וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֶל לוֹט אַל נָא תְהִי מְרִיבָה בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶיךָ וּבֵין רֹעַי וּבֵין רֹעֶיךָ כִּי אֲנָשִׁים אַחִים אֲנָחְנוּ:
9. Is not all the land before you? Please part from me; if [you go] left, I will go right, and if [you go] right, I will go left."ט. הֲלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ לְפָנֶיךָ הִפָּרֶד נָא מֵעָלָי אִם הַשְּׂמֹאל וְאֵימִנָה וְאִם הַיָּמִין וְאַשְׂמְאִילָה:
10. And Lot raised his eyes, and he saw the entire plain of the Jordan, that it was entirely watered; before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as you come to Zoar.י. וַיִּשָּׂא לוֹט אֶת עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא אֶת כָּל כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן כִּי כֻלָּהּ מַשְׁקֶה לִפְנֵי שַׁחֵת יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת סְדֹם וְאֶת עֲמֹרָה כְּגַן יְ־הֹוָ־ה כְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בֹּאֲכָה צֹעַר:
11. And Lot chose for himself the entire plain of the Jordan, and Lot traveled from the east, and they parted from one another.יא. וַיִּבְחַר לוֹ לוֹט אֵת כָּל כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן וַיִּסַּע לוֹט מִקֶּדֶם וַיִּפָּרְדוּ אִישׁ מֵעַל אָחִיו:

Just as Lot lifted his eyes and was able to select a land for himself, either to the left or the right, so would Avraham select the entirety of the land, to the left, right, North, South, East, and West. That is why Hashem mentions Avraham raising his eyes and seeing. Not because this is a limitation on the gift, but because it is a comparison to what Lot has just received from Avraham. As for the details, on a peshat level, work it out. There is no need to be concerned and so particular.

If we were making up midrashim, though, it seems that we could just say that Hashem granted Avraham supernatural sight. And perhaps we can even read that into שָׂא נָא עֵינֶיךָ, raise up your eyes.

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