Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Lekh L'kha

Gen. 14:18-15:6

After the battle of the five kings against the four and the rescue of his nephew Lot, Abram lay in his tent, sleepless. Instead of the elation of victory, he felt a strange emptiness.

Not so strange, really, he thought. This day had seen the end of a dream, with none to replace it. Even after they had parted in the wake of their herders’ wranglings, he had believed that Lot would be his heir if he and Sarah had no son, which seemed increasingly likely.

Now, however, the breach between them was complete, and although Lot was a decent man, there was a fundamental flaw in his character. Abram had already known this, deep in his heart, when he had offered his nephew the choice of which land he would take and Lot, like a greedy child, had grabbed at the most attractive parcel as if it were a sparkling toy. A serious, thoughtful man, a potential leader, would have deferred to his elder, or at least consulted with him.

And yesterday, when they had burst into the encampment where Lot and his family were being held prisoner, Abram had seen the burning humiliation on the younger man’s face and the impotent fury in his eyes, and knew what he was thinking. Even when I go off on my own, my uncle still has to come in person to rescue me.

He acknowledged to himself that he should not have gone, should have let some of the other men free Lot, so that they could have met again as equals, not as a warrior freeing a hostage. Lot had spent his entire life trying to live up to his uncle’s reputation, and could not forgive Abram for the fact that he had failed. “If you should come before God, nephew,” Abram had told him once, “you will not be asked why you were not Abram. You will be asked why you were not Lot.”

No, Lot would not carry on his legacy. That task must go to his trusted servant, Eliezer, although that thought too disturbed him. Could a man be too selfless? A good man, the perfect servant, would not necessarily make a good leader. Decisiveness and a certain amount of self-interest, perhaps even ruthlessness at times, were called for, and he saw no sign of these things in Eliezer.

“After these things, the word of YHVH came to Abraham in a vision…”

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