Throughout the course of our first forefather’s spiritual and physical journey, transforming from the Kasdi Avram to Av Hamon Goyim, the inheritor of Canaan, G-d makes promises. After Avram goes through the terrible trial of going down to Egypt after barely settling in Canaan, only to have his wife kidnapped, and then is forced to send away his nephew Lot, Hashem promises the 90+ year old barren man millions of descendants. After Avram is pulled into a lopsided war to save Lot, only to do most of the fighting himself, Hashem seals the Brit Bein Habitarim, and promises our forefather the Land of Canaan.
Each of the promises comes immediately after Avram passing a trial, or suffering a loss, except for the first one. When Hashem makes initial contact with our forefather at the beginning of our sedra, and tells him to make the journey to Eretz Yisrael and leave everything he ever knew behind, before even getting a positive response, a promise is already made, ending with:
וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה
I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse, and [in the end,] all of the nations of the world will bless you. (בראשית י”ב:ג’)
Radak elaborates on this oath. He writes that Hashem’s pledge to bless those who bless Avraham extended beyond helpful words of encouragement to those who actualize their blessing of Avram by joining forces with him. In G-d’s first encounter with our forefather, He essentially promises that anyone who helps and supports Avram and his descendants will find divine blessing and success. Those who do the opposite, who try to attack, stop and destroy the Ivrim, will have nothing but failure, their efforts cursed by the Creator of the World himself.
Without so much as a word of question or complaint, Avram takes Sarai, Lot and all of their belongings (and, according to Rashi, disciples) they accumulated in Haran, and they journey to the yet-to-be-Promised Land.
Not long afterwards, a famine hits Canaan and Avram and family are forced to journey to Egypt to seek sustenance. Paroah kidnaps the beautiful Sarai and handsomely rewards the man whom he believes to be her brother. The Egyptians are immediately hit with a plague to punish them for their leader’s violation of our matriarch, and they send Avram and his band of now well-off Ivrim away.
So, we see that scarcely ten pesukim after Hashem makes the promise of “וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר,” it has already been fulfilled. The Egyptian king put himself at odds with Avram by kidnapping the sister of a man who he believed to be a helpless foreigner, and was cursed very badly by Hashem in retaliation. On the other hand, when Avram is forced to ally with the four kings in their war against the five, they enjoy much prosperity even after the war. Why? Because they allied themselves with our forefather, and by “blessing” him, they were blessed in return.
This interpretation of Hashem’s pledge of “וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר” should be no secret to us. It is a known fact that throughout history, nations that have respected and safeguarded the Jewish People have flourished and thrived. However, once they turn against us, and “curse” us by blaming their problems on our nation, things begin to go downhill. Invaders destroy them, or neighboring countries crush them, or they overextend themselves and lose out from it; all because of their insistence on cursing the blessed people. A nation and culture can only endure over time with G-d’s blessing, and it’s abundantly clear why the Jews have continued and thrived for so long; we are blessed by Hashem Himself, and we have the unique advantage that this can be bestowed onto others, only if they support us. If they stop supporting us, if they “curse” us and try to destroy us, then they have sealed their own fates.
The manifestation of Hashem’s first promise to Avram is particularly prevalent in our times. Ever since Jews began returning en masse to Eretz Yisrael in the late nineteenth century, our Muslim cousins and neighbors have been plotting to remove us from our inheritance. The terrible terorrism of the early twentieth century built up steam as more waves of aliyah brought Jews home. In 1948, all of Israel’s neighboring countries, each with a highly developed and advanced army, attacked her and her fledgling military, and by some tremendous miracle, they lost. In 1967, they tried again, and once again sustained terrible losses, giving up Gaza, Sinai, Judea, Samaria, and the entirety of the city of Jerusalem.
While our misled efforts for peace with a people who seek our destruction have made us give back most of the land we’ve won, and even though our enemies’ rewritten history has convinced the world that we never had a claim to it in the first place, the fact remains that our Muslim enemies have never succeeded at defeating us in battle, no matter how small, disorganized, and primitive our army was. Even now, as Hamas and Fatah have repeatedly failed to scare us away from Israel, and they’ve resorted to sending their wives and children into the streets with knives, desperately hoping to reduce our numbers here one at a time, and they’ve been failing even at that. It should be no surprise to us that the world is so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause- they don’t seem to be particularly good at anything.
How is it that the most intelligent Muslim minds of the Middle East put together have been so unsuccessful at driving a small country of scarcely eight million people, whose biggest cities are less than 50 km (31 miles) from its nearest border with an enemy country, into the Mediterranean Sea? Keep in mind that in Yishma’el, the forefather of these buffoons, is also a son of the blessed Avram and receives his own promises from Hashem in our sedra.
The answer lies in the essential and most basic tenant of the Palestinian people, one which they’ve kept quiet until most recently, but are now more than happy to share with the world; their belief that the Jewish presence in Israel is temporary and, whether through force or patience, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This is in direct contradiction with our messianic beliefs, and the only way that these two, very antithetical destinies, can be resolved, is for the Palestinians to either live in peace and give up their claim to our inheritance, or for them to fight us for it.
By seeking out our destruction, as well as trying to undermine G-d’s promise to Avraham, the so-called Palestinian people have put themselves at odds with G-d Himself. In our days, as we witness this pathetic group try to struggle to maintain a struggle, we are truly seeing a fulfillment of Radak’s interpretation of Hashem’s promise of “וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר.”
With this in mind, let us turn back to our sedra. Hashem made this promise to Avram, before our forefather even left for agreed to move to Canaan. Why did this oath specifically need to be given before Avram followed Hashem’s call of “לך לך”?
Chizkuni gives a beautiful answer to this question:
ואברכה מברכיך- אל תחשוב בלבך לומר אין לי קרוב וגואל בארץ כי אני אוהבך אאהב, ומשנאיך אשנא
And I will bless those who bless you- don’t think “I don’t have anyone in Canaan to save me”, [for I am your Savior]… (חזקוני על י”ג:ב’)
Chizkuni answers that Hashem made this particular pledge to Avram at this point of time, to help him feel more confident about “לך לך.” Anyone who has followed Hashem’s call in more modern times can very much relate to our forefather’s unspoken concern for his own safety. Coming to a new country by oneself can be very scary. Coming to a small country, full of enemies, in a time of war, can and should be downright terrifying. Yet, even as one considering following in Avram’s footsteps faces the reality of living in a dangerous country without “קרוב וגואל בארץ,” they cannot forget Hashem’s first and perhaps most powerful blessing to our forefather: “וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר,” “I, G-d, am your protector and redeemer- I will watch over you and protect you from those who seek to curse you and destroy you.”
While the Muslim terrorists’ efforts have not succeeded at anything in particular, a side effect of daily attempted attacks by Israel’s largest minority, is a rise in the perceived danger of living in Eretz Yisrael. Despite this, many brave Jews have still reiterated Avram’s journey, and hundreds of olim chadashim have poured into the country in the past three weeks, with many more still planning on coming soon enough. This is the best answer to this rise in violence- to show our cursed enemies that we have faith in Hashem’s promises of protection (“וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר”) and of our inheriting the entire Land of Israel (including the West Bank, Gaza, Golan and East Jerusalem) soon enough. By coming to Eretz Yisrael, we are showing our piteous enemies that we can and are doing exactly what they are afraid of- asserting our rights as Avraham’s heirs to our birthright, and establishing a permanent presence in the Holy Land for good.
May we all take strength in Hashem’s initial and eternal oath of “וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר,” and may each and every one of merit to follow the call of “לך לך” to an “ארץ אשר אראך” full of peace and happiness, very very soon. Shabbat Shalom and only Besorot Tovot.
This d’var Torah is based on an idea I developed with a talmid chacham that I’m proud to call my uncle, Rav Aryeh Brueckheimer.