When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. — Genesis 14:14
The Torah portion for this week, Lech Lecha, which means “go to yourself.” It is from Genesis 12:1–17:27, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:27–41:16.
I recently read a story about two men, Ron Cole and Duncan Cumming, who were childhood friends only to discover in their 70s that they were really biological brothers. The two were parted when each family went separate ways, and that was the last that the brothers had seen each other. Yet, through an organization that does genealogical research, the truth had been revealed. The two men have now been reunited, speak regularly, and have become good friends once again.
What changed? Why were these two friends who hadn’t spoken in decades now interested in rekindling their relationship? It’s because they share a common mother, they share DNA, and a common history.
When I read this story, I couldn’t help but think that on a deeper level this is the story of all humanity. We see the people around us and we think, “That’s my friend,” or “that’s a stranger.” But the truth is that we are all brothers and sisters. As Jacob’s sons said to Joseph in Genesis 42:11, “We are all the sons of one man.” We all come from Adam, but even more so, we all come from the same God.
Three summers ago in Israel, we witnessed the horrible abduction and murder of three Jewish boys, Eyal, Gilad, and Naphtali. In the 18 days before we discovered their fate, these boys became everyone’s boys. People in Israel and all over the world held banners and posted on social media the same four words: “Bring back our boys!” Our boys. When the Israel Defense Forces organized to search for the boys, they were told, “Look for these boys like they are your own brothers. Because they are.” For those 18 days, Israel and her friends were a family. We recognized our commonality and came together for the sake of “our boys.”
In this week’s Torah portion, we see a similar occurrence. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is taken hostage in war. Although Abraham and Lot had already parted ways, Abraham put his life on the line to rescue his nephew. What’s interesting is that in the original Hebrew the verse reads: “When Abram heard that his brother had been taken captive . . .” Abraham called his nephew his “brother” because at that moment, when his estranged relative needed him, that’s what Lot was – Abraham’s brother.
As we go about our day, let’s look at the people whom we encounter as our own brothers and sisters. Go the extra mile for your brother. Be extra kind to your sister. Let’s view everyone we meet today as part of our very own family – because the truth is, they really are.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President