Educating Against Egypt

Through his experiences with his nephew Lot, Abraham learns valuable parenting skills.

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The mature Abraham was able to put the blandishments of Egypt's rich, sensuous civilization in perspective. He remained steadfast and unblemished. But the young disciple, his roots yet shallow in the soil of faith, was not so lucky. True, he dutifully returned to Canaan with his uncle (for which the Abarbanel applauds him). Nevertheless, when his eyes scanned the landscape of the Promised Land, it was clear what he was searching for--Egypt! "And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was all well-watered...like a garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt...." The eyes which chose Sodom and Amorrah were no longer the eyes of a son of Abraham.

The lesson of environmental influence was not wasted. Yitzchak was destined to live out his entire life in the Land of Israel as an olah temimah (a whole/unblemished offering). Abraham did not repeat the mistake that had cost him his precious nephew.

There would be other lessons--the inexorable influence of Noach's designations of blessing and curse, the absolute necessity of righteous parenting from both father and mother, the existence of many ways in the service of God beside the way of chesed (kindness).

All these lessons would accrue, through painful experience and absolute devotion, to the eternal credit of the future generations, which twinkled as stars in Abraham's heaven, to us.

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Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt is rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center, Riverdale, N.Y.