The haftarah of Parshat Lech Lecha begins in the 27th passuk of the 40th perek of Yeshayahu and continues until 41:17. When one studies Yeshayahu, one learns that the first 26 passukim in perek 40 are those which are part of the Shabbat Nachamu haftarah.
In this haftarah, Hashem comforts the exiled Jewish People after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, and reassures them that they will be redeemed. Hashem continues to tell the Jewish People that it is foolish to serve idols, which will not save them or provide for their needs, and that one who trusts in Hashem will never be abandoned.
Many of these ideals continue into this week’s haftarah as well. Although the Navi speaks of these actions happening at the Divine level, man is commanded to follow in the ways of Hashem and behave as He does on a smaller scale. When a haftarah is selected for a parsha, it is usually selected on the principle of “d’damileh,” or that there are similar phrases and themes which connect them together. Therefore, although the actions in this haftarah are describing ma’aseh Hashem (the deeds of G-d), Avraham Avinu’s life was also permeated with actions that somehow mirror those of the Creator (may He be blessed).
Chazal state that in 41:2, when the passuk describes the “one who came from the East,” it is referring to Avraham Avinu. This passuk refers to the beginning of Parshat Lech Lecha, where Hashem tells Avraham to leave his native land and go where He would guide him. In addition, the Navi speaks how that one from the East would conquer many nations as Avraham would do during his battle against the four kings of Canaan.
Passukim 5-7 describe how the nations unite together in a seemingly heart-warming gesture. Each craftsman encourages his fellow to be strong and produce to greatest possible product. However, in context, this process of encouragement is referring to the nations encouraging each other to serve idols. In contrast, Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer describes Avraham as an iconoclast, who destroys the idols of his time, literally and figuratively. Avraham stood alone against the entire world, with only G-d given strength to keep him from faltering.
Further in the haftarah, the B’nei Yisrael are told not to fear, because Hashem has taken them as His Chosen People and that He will not reject them. He will always be there to support them and save them, and those who deny Hashem’s selection and protection of the Jewish People will be humiliated by the facts. On a similar level, Avraham was afraid that he would not have a child to continue in the ways of Hashem, and that religious monotheism would die with him. People would laugh at him and say his beliefs were just a trend, a passing fad. Hashem told him not to be afraid and that He will give him a child and future generations who will inherit Eretz Yisrael, although through hardship and years of slavery. Although they would be enslaved by the cruel Egyptians, Hashem would punish them and bring out the Jewish People, to the astonished and shocked eyes of the nations of the world.
The Navi compares the B’nei Yisrael to a “worm,” small and insignificant. Yet this same worm will transformed into a powerful force that will “grind down mountains and cast their dust into the winds.” Dust and worms are also a pair of motifs which are connected to the life of Avraham. When he argues with Hashem to save the sinful people of Sodom, he asks how he could argue with Hashem, as he, Avraham, is “dust and ashes,” a lowly worm who has no right to argue to the Master of the Universe. Yet while he is comparing himself to dust and ashes, he continues to argue and negotiate with Hashem until he reaches a number beyond which there is no hope.
At the same time, Hashem compares the Jewish People to dust, which cannot be counted or entirely removed from the world. Therefore, when the Navi speaks about the dust being scattered to the winds, he is saying that the B’nei Yisrael will be sown into the four directions of the world and will be impossible to contain. Their influence will impact humanity, having defied conventional wisdom, even when they were a lowly worm. Avraham’s descendants would also inherit the Land of Israel, and occupy every grain of dirt they touch in all four directions.
Therefore, when Hashem tells Avraham in Bereishit 17:2 that he should walk before Hashem and be whole, Avraham is following the Divine example. Yet at the same time, Avraham is walking “before” Hashem, by which his actions would provide Yeshayahu with the stirring motifs by which he describes Hashem’s attitudes towards the Jewish People and the nations of the world. May we all aspire to follow in the ways of Hashem in every aspect of our lives and always feel His closeness and strength at all times.
Adina Brizel lives in Kew Gardens Hills, NY. She majored in Judaic Studies at Stern College for Women and earned her master’s degree from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. She is currently working as a rakezet at Midreshet Devora, and can be reached at email@example.com.