Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha 5773
Parashat Hashavua: If and How to Go Out to a Dangerous BattleHarav Yosef Carmel
The first case of pidyon shvuyim (freeing captives) in our national history is Avraham’s extrication of
Rashi, based on Unkelus’ translation, says that it means that he encouraged them to be diligent in the matter. He did not do this just with words but stood at the front of the unit. The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 43) cites several approaches which help us analyze what the proper solution to the situation is, what the price was, and what factors played a role in the decision.
Rabbi Yehuda said that Avraham’s associates spoke strongly before him by asking the following question: “If the Five Kings (whom the Four Kings defeated) could not stand up to them, how can we stand up to them?” Rabbi Nechemia said that Avraham spoke strongly before them, saying: “I will go and fall in the sanctification of Hashem’s Name.” Abba bar Zavda said that it is referring to preparing weapons for the fighters. Reish Lakish says that Avraham presented them with precious stones for their participation in the battle. Rabbi Levi said that he discussed with them the Torah’s rules about who is sent away from battle. Let us briefly analyze each opinion.
According to Rabbi Yehuda, Avraham did not accept the claim that they were no match for the Four Kings, although we do not know how he countered their concerns. Apparently he relied upon his abilities, along with prayers and Divine Assistance, and was thankfully successful in his calculated risk. According to Rabbi Nechemia, Avraham decided to go out to war even though he, as its leader, could pay with his life for it. He figured that even if he would die, it would at least be as an act of sanctification of Hashem’s Name. This is certainly a response from which we can learn, even though we do not know what price would have been too much for Avraham to pay.
According to Abba bar Zavda we do not see any moral response to the question of whether or not to go out to battle. However, we do see that even one who relies upon Divine Assistance should be certain to go out properly prepared for battle. According to Reish Lakish, we see that Avraham was willing to expend great sums of money to finance the pidyon shvuyim. Finally, according to Rabbi Levi, Avraham was careful to make proper spiritual preparations for the battle. Indeed the Torah puts great stress on making sure that only those who are fit for battle, from the perspectives it sets out, should participate. This needs to be done in the proper spirit of one who understands that Hashem’s involvement in battle is the one that will ultimately seal the fate of its participants.
Let us pray that if we are ever again put in a situation where we will have to deal with such serious steps, we will have learned the various lessons that our patriarch Avraham taught us.
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