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B'resheet/Genesis 12:2 And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
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This verse, the second verse of Abram's call, starts a seven-fold sequence of benefits that will follow from Abram's obedience if he will answerHaShem's call and leave Haran on the next stage of his journey to the Land. It contains four verbs: the first three are all prefix form (the is the 1cs prefix pronoun) in the first person singular, denoting what HaShem - who is speaking - will do; the fourth, from the root "to be", although usually translated second person singular, is a Qal imperative, literally: "and be!", so that Abram is being commanded to be a blessing.
The Sages said that "travelling has three adverse effects: diminishing procreation1 and reducing one's wealth and one's fame" (B'resheet Rabbah 39:11), soRashi comments that Abram "needed these three blessings which G-d promised him: regarding the sons and regarding the money and regarding the name." Rabbi Hirsch is more explicit: "It is already evident that Abraham was to receive back from G-d everything that he had given up and, indeed, in a considerably enhanced measure. He left his country, but G-d says that he himself is to be the founder of a new one; he left his birthplace, but in G-d he will gain the right to prosper on the earth; and in leaving his family, name and reputation, in him a new name is to grow to great renown."
TheBaal HaTurim adds that, "This phrase contains three blessings, corresponding to the three blessings of Birchat Cohanim, the Priestly Blessing"
The L-RD bless you and keep you;
The L-RD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The L-RD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (B'Midbar 6:24-26, ESV)
Nahum Sarna confirms this by commenting not only that Abram will be materially, reputationally and progenitally blessed, but that Abram "will serve as the standard by which a blessing is invoked." As Isaiah will later remind the people at a time when Israel is going through despair and disbelief: "Look back to Abraham your father and to Sarah who brought you forth. For he was only one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many" (Isaiah 51:2, JPS). It is as if G-d was then saying, "I could do it then for them and I can do it now for you!"
The Tur also points out that the verse has a masoretic note that the word appears four times in the Torah: here, "When Abram was ninety-nine years old the L-RD appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am G-d Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless'" (B'resheet 17:1, ESV), "Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain" (Shemot 34:2, ESV) and "The L-RD said to Moses, 'Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction'" (Shemot 24:12, ESV). All are commands or instructions given by HaShem; it is not enough that Abram should receive G-d's blessings, he in turn must be a blessing; having received, he must give.
Yeshua seems to pick up the theme of giving things up and receiving compensation or a reward. "Yeshua answered them, 'Yes! I tell you that everyone who has left house, wife, brothers, parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of G-d, will receive many times as much in the 'olam hazeh, and in the 'olam haba eternal life'" (Luke 18:29-30, CJB). Just as with Abraham's call, Yeshua says, those are prepared to put everything on the line in order to enter the kingdom of G-d, will receive blessings both in this life (this world) and the next (the world to come). The blessings in this life are not defined by Luke; he simply - and perhaps a little vaguely - says: "many times as much", so that the blessings may come back in very different ways, recognisable as the blessings of the kingdom rather than as the original. Abram, after all, didn't get his family back, or return to a position of prominence in Haran after making his fortune in the West; he was nevertheless blessed with sons, wealth, a significant reputation and a promise worth more than all of them put together.
Mark, on the other hand, is much more specific about Yeshua's words: "Yeshua said, 'Yes! I tell you that there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or fields, for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, who will not receive a hundred times over, now, in the 'olam hazeh, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and lands - with persecutions! - and in the 'olam haba, eternal life'" (Mark 10:29-30, CJB). Now instead of giving things up "for the sake of the kingdom of G-d", the object of devotion is much more explicit: "for My sake and for the sake of the Good News". The return blessings are enumerated by Mark using exactly the same set of words as the things given up, and the "hundredfold" qualifier has been added: give up your mother and father, and get a hundred mothers and fathers back! While the eternal life remains the same in the world to come, an important addition to this life is "with persecution". While we may expect to receive kingdom blessings in this world, we must also anticipate that they will be accompanied by persecution. Some will see the blessing and be jealous: they will want it for themselves; others will mock it and attribute it to corruption or dishonesty; still others will seek to deny our right or entitlement to anything, while others will despise the blessings and declare them worthless.
This leads on, therefore, to the motivation that may be involved in our sacrifices. Why do we relinquish the things of this world? Yeshua had been invited to dinner by one of the leading Pharisees. Over dinner, "Yeshua also said to the one who had invited him, 'When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors; for they may well invite you in return, and that will be your repayment. Instead, when you have a party, invite poor people, disfigured people, the crippled, the blind! How blessed you will be that they have nothing with which to repay you! For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous'" (Luke 14:12-14). This appears to be a calculated and deliberate investment for one's future, done perhaps without any real concern for those who are being blessed by one's apparent generosity; done only to "buy" status or position in the world to come. Faith is required, of course, to believe that there is a world to come, and we know that things done in faith please G-d, but does this seem a little hypocritical?
The balance is found in Yeshua's words about how "giving" or charity is to be done: "When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matthew 6:2-4, NASB). Our investment in the kingdom is to be a private matter between us and G-d, without the notice or attention of the world or perhaps even our fellow members of the kingdom. The fact that there may be a future reward is to be secondary to our desire to please our Father and comes out of relationship with Him rather than selfish motives to feather a future nest. Our desire to please Him, by blessing others and furthering the work of the kingdom, should be our only motive.
1. - because Jewish law considers it improper to engage in marital relations when guests in another's home; see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 240:13
Further Study: Luke 7:7-10; Matthew 23:1-7
Application: Where do you stand on the motivation front? If we are honest, most of us operate most of the time out of mixed motives: yes, to serve G-d, but also to serve ourselves with half an eye on the "return blessing" promise. Now would be a good time to have a chat with the Boss and ask Him how we can move away from that to an attitude of serving only Him.
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
Comment - 12Oct10 04:28 MaDonna Eason: As I read this drash I was reminded of the power of God's word and how rich it is in revelation, wisdom, and knowlege. Personally, today it was convicting and reminded me of how I had left someone out this past Thanksgiving Weekend. Someone who may not seem so important in the eyes of many, but surely precious to His heart. I asked the Lord to forgive me and remind me to include her next time. Hebrews 4:12 See, the Word of God is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword - it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart. I lead a Weekly Prayer Group that begins with 2 hours prayer for Israel. I read this drash to our group. Thank you, it is so rich.
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