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Parashat Lekh Lekha
November 1, 2014 – 8 Heshvan 5775
God commands Abram to move his family to Canaan, promising him progeny and blessing. Shortly after arriving, a famine forces them to go farther south to Egypt. There, Abram’s wife Sarai is taken by the Pharaoh, who is told that she is Abram’s sister. When the truth is revealed, Abram and Sarai are allowed to return to Canaan with great wealth in hand.
Abram separates himself from his nephew Lot after there is tension among their respective servants. But later, when Lot is captured in battle, Abram organizes his rescue and defeats his captors.
Abram fears that he will die childless, but God promises that his descendants will be great and numerous. But when Sarai appears to be barren, she asks her husband to procreate with her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. Hagar becomes pregnant, then runs away after Sarai treats her cruelly. God convinces her to return to the household, where she gives birth to a son, Ishmael.
God commands Abram to circumcise both himself and Ishmael as a sign of God’s covenant.
November 8, 2014 – 15 Heshvan 5775
Visited by three strangers, Abraham shows gracious hospitality. The strangers announce that Sarah will become pregnant. Sarah laughs at the suggestion.
God informs Abraham of plans to destroy Sodom and Amorah. Abraham, knowing that his nephew Lot lives in Sodom, convinces God to spare the cities if 10 righteous men could be found there. That proves impossible, so Lot and his family are rescued from Sodom, narrowly escaping the wrath of their depraved neighbors. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt after looking back at the destroyed cities. Thinking that they are the last people on earth, Lot’s daughters get their father drunk and causes him to impregnate them with sons.
Abraham and his family meet King Avimelech of Gerar. Sarah is identified as Abraham’s sister, and the king captures her; only God’s intercession forces Avimelech to release her and the household. Abraham and Avimelech later agree to a truce and establish the city of Be’er Sheva. Abraham and Sarah have a son, Isaac. When Sarah suspects Ishmael of foul play, she banishes Ishmael and Hagar from the house. On the brink of death, Hagar is promised by God that Ishmael will become the father of a great nation.
God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. Just before Abraham kills his son, an angel beckons him to stop, promising him a strong legacy because of his willingness to listen to God. A ram is sacrificed in Isaac’s place.
Parashat Haye Sarah
November 15, 2014 – 22 Heshvan 5775
Sarah dies; Abraham mourns for her, then purchases the Cave of Machpelah to bury her. Abraham asks his servant to find Isaac a wife in the land of Haran. After a long journey and much prayer, the servant finds a kind woman who feeds him and his camel. The servant receives permission to take the woman, Rebecca, to Be’er Sheva to marry Isaac. Rebecca’s presence is a great comfort to Isaac. Later, we read that Abraham married again and had more children. Abraham dies and is buried by Isaac and Ishmael in Machpelah.
November 22, 2014 – 29 Heshvan 5775
Rebecca, agonizing from being pregnant with twins, is told by God that her older child will one day serve the younger child. Rebecca favors Jacob, the younger twin, while Isaac prefers Esau, a brash hunter who brings his father game. One night, Esau returns home famished and agrees to give Jacob his birthright in exchange for stew.
Isaac’s ventures during adulthood mirror those of his father; he pretends his wife is his sister to protect his family from King Avimelech. Later, Isaac and Avimelech make a treaty surrounding the wells that Isaac had dug.
Fearing imminent death, Isaac asks Esau to hunt him game, after which he would bless his elder son. Rebecca overhears and tells Jacob to kill an animal and impersonate his brother. Isaac is blind and, though suspicious, gives Jacob the blessings he had intended for Esau. When Esau returns and learns what had happened, he threatens to kill his brother. Jacob flees Be’er Sheva to look for a wife, while Esau, after disappointing his parents by marrying a Hittite woman, finds another wife among the family of Ishmael.
November 29, 2011 – 7 Kislev 5775
Fleeing from his angry brother, Jacob falls asleep and dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending, and God promising Jacob the blessings of his ancestors. Inspired, Jacob names the place Beth-El and continues to Haran. Jacob falls in love with Rachel, and her father, Laban, agrees to let them marry if Jacob works for him for seven years. But Jacob is tricked into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, and only marries Rachel once he agrees to work another seven years.
Jacob favors Rachel, but she is barren; Leah bears Jacob several sons. Jacob also has sons with Rachel’s and Leah’s handmaidens. Finally, Rachel gives birth to Joseph; after years of sibling rivalry, Jacob has 11 sons and one daughter. Jacob seeks independence from Laban after serving him for 20 years. Laban uses nefarious means to stand in Jacob’s way, but they eventually reach an agreement.