Parashat – Lech Lecha – Erev Shabbat 4 November 2022 (5783)
Week:30 October -5 November 2022
Torah portion: Gen. 12:1-17:27 Haftarah: Is. 40:27-41:16

Adonais messenger found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I have fled from my mistress Sarai.” The messenger sends her back to her mistress with these words, “I will greatly increase your offspring and they will be too many to count. You are pregnant and will bear a son whom you shall call Ishmael… Adonai has heard your affliction…” In a direct dialogue after that with the messenger, Hagar names the Divine “Adonai” meaning “you are the God who sees me,” because she realizes that she had truly been seen. By using the Divine Hebrew name revealed to Moses (which is read as “Adonai”), Hagar reveals that she had experienced the Divine. This servant girl experiences a comfort level with God and thereby names God el ro’i, “God Who sees me” (p. 59). In this parashah three connections are made between Hagar and Abram. First, Hagar leaves her home, her lechi lach,“go forth” (fem.); Abram also leaves his home, his lech lecha, “go forth” (masc.). Second, God makes a brit, a covenant, with Hagar to have numerous offspring just as God promises Abram earlier in Genesis. Third, Hagar is given the name of her son, and Abraham will also be told the name of his son. In contrast, Hagar gives God a name in Gen 16:13! Abram never did this and we do not find others doing this either! 

            Naming is of key importance throughout the Torah. Adam names Eve, as well as all the creatures of the earth, and God gives names to various humans. This is the first and only time a woman names God. Hagar also uses the title “el” for God which also affirms God as seeing. She seems to have a sense of this God from the time she flees from Sarai into the desert. She also finds water in the desert where she encounters this God… the place that often offers spiritual belief and strength found in theTorah. The well at this encounter is called Beer-lehai-ro(Gen. 16:14) which is commonly translated as the “Well of the Living One Who Sees Me” (p. 60). It is here that she finds healing. Ironically, despite Hagar being a woman of spirituality and a sense of the Divine, she is omitted from the part of this portion when God renames the various key people – Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. Both these names now have a Hebrew letter that suggests they are part of God’s name, “hey.” Hagar (hey gar), “Adonaidwells,” already has the divine letter “hey” when she first meets Adonai (p. 62).

            This passage takes on greater importance for me as I reflect on a story a friend told me recently. At the beginning of the story, he noted he keeps a five dollar bill in a cup in his car. He was in his car at a stoplight and a man was begging for help. Before he pulled away, he called out to the man, asked his name, gave him the money and told him his name. It was a touching example of recognizing our brothers and sisters by “seeing them” and “naming them.” So often we fail to really “see” those who share our daily lives as we go from place to place. I am reminded to really LOOK at others who are helping me, ASK them their name, tell them my name, and thank them. Each person on this tiny planet is important but too many feel “invisible” and are treated as such. This interpretation of the text highlights the fact that God clearly SEES each one of us and desires a relationship of presence, love, and care with us.

Reflection and Discussion: 1. Do you sometimes feel “invisible” and that you are not “seen” or heard? How do you respond to this experience? 2. Who are the people you meet each day and never really “see” them for whom they are? 3. How can we all “see” one another in new and life-giving ways going forth?

Bibliography: : Shekel, Rabbi Michal. “Lech Lecha: What’s in a Name?” The Women’s Torah Commentary, Jewish Lights, 2000, pp. 57–62. 

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Mary Louise Chesley-Cora, Delaware, USA, Bat Kol Alumna 2021

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