Friday, 18 October 2013

The Animals Went In...

Dvar Torah written for Shabbat Lashem, Bnei Akiva UK's weekly parasha sheet, Parashat Lech Lecha 5774

In the Brit Bein Habetarim (Covenant between the Parts), in which Avraham is promised that his descendants will inherit the Land of Israel, Hashem told Avraham to take three heifers, three goats and three rams. In last week’s parasha, Noach was only told to take two of each impure species into the ark. The contrast of these seemingly random details can provides us with an insight into the mindsets of these two great characters.

In an age of turmoil and unrest, Noach saw his job to maintain the world, which he succeeded in doing. Hashem helped him upon this path, giving him instructions as to how to survive the flood in the most basic way. The command to build the ark reflected Noach’s limited ability to help the world – space was at a premium and the concept of two per species was the minimum necessary for life to continue.

However Hashem was really looking for someone to go beyond and proactively look for more people to save. In contrast to the ark, Avraham’s tent was open on all four sides. Avraham’s whole life was spent welcoming guests, bringing the concept of monotheism into people’s lives and being a positive moral influence on society. Avraham’s covenant is therefore built around the number three, because that represents the offspring of two – the need to build for the future and think beyond the minimum.

In Bnei Akiva, we also believe in a concept of a ‘three’: Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael, which means playing a leading role in the life of the Jewish nation (Am Yisrael) as proud religious Jews whose lives are steeped in Torah (Torat Yisrael), living in the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael).

Like Avraham, Bnei Akiva’s ideology looks to the future. If we are religious in Israel but don’t contribute to the State, if we are contributing to the community as religious Jews in Chutz La’aretz, or if we contribute to Israeli society but leave our religion behind, we are not building the future for the Jewish nation. Having two of these elements may represent survival at best, but having all three elements are essential for the Jewish people to develop and grow.

That is why Bnei Akiva offers Hachshara, our flagship gap year programme in Israel, which develops young leaders, allowing them to learn Torah in Israel whilst also making a contribution to society and preparing them to make their own mark on the Jewish nation. As chaverim of Bnei Akiva in Year 13 come together for Shabbat to learn about Hachshara, the parasha’s theme serves as a reminder of the proactive life that Hashem wants us to lead.

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