Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha| 5768
Keeping Clean FeetHarav Yosef Carmel
Avraham went out to battle to save his nephew, Lot, and chased the retreating powerful coalition of the four Mesopotamian kings “until Chova, which is to the left (north) of Damascus” (Bereishit 14:15). This event is alluded to by difficult p’sukim in Yeshaya (41:2-3): “Who awakened righteousness from the east, He will call him to his feet, He will give before him nations and kings will be lowered … he will chase them and pass peace, a way with his feet he will not come.” This week we will take a look at the phrase, “a way with his feet he will not come.”
Rashi (ad loc.) explains that it was referring to the fact that, in his pursuit, Avraham went to places where he had not previously visited. In other words, Avraham was miraculously successful despite his lack of intelligence information. The conclusion is that one who has Divine guidance can manage without GPS devices. The problem with this explanation is that the pasuk uses the future tense, whereas, according to Rashi, it refers to a past one-time event, which warrants use of the past tense. The Radak explained that Avraham and his soldiers were not tired despite the long trek.
According to both of these explanations, Avraham’s forces experienced only a nes nistar (a miracle that does not contradict the rules of nature). They were willing to risk their lives to undertake a worthy mission they believed in and, in this merit, were successful. The midrash relates to this dedication as the source of success for Avraham’s descendants 400 years later. “At that time, Hashem said: ‘you toiled for Me in the killing of the kings in the middle of the night. I swear that I will repay you in Egypt,’ as it says: ‘It was at midnight’” (Psikta Rabbati, Hosafa 1:2).
According to other sources, there were open miracles that helped Avraham. These occurred in the following realms: 1) Avraham’s strides at that time were a kilometer or more long (P’sikta, ibid.). 2) The legs of the warriors did not even pick up dirt during the event (ibid.). 3) It was only Avraham and one servant, Eliezer, who conquered the armies of the kings (Midrash Tehillim 110).
A third approach can be found in the following midrash. After killing so many people, Avraham was troubled by the likelihood that someone among them was righteous. Hashem reassured him: “a way with his feet he will not come,” i.e., the sin will not relate to you. This midrash raises an important moral question: when a tzaddik fights a just war, does he have to be concerned that he will kill those who are free of blame? In this case, Avraham was not assured that he did not kill anyone righteous but that the culpability had been removed from him. His hands and feet remained clean.
Let us pray that also in our day, if we will be forced to fight wherever we must, including “until Chova to the left of Damascus,” we will merit miraculous protection, as well as moral protection.
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