By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Yerushalayim, Israel
Jewish tradition teaches that the world, as we know it, will exist for no more than 6,000 years As stated in the Talmud: “The world is destined to exist for six thousand years. The first two thousand years were of nothingness; the second two thousand years were of Torah; the third two thousand years are the days of Mashiach.” T.B., Masekhet Sanhedrin 97a.
The first 2,000 years (1-2000 (3761 B.C.E. to approximately 1761B.C.E.)), the years of “nothingness,” were the years before the Torah. The second 2,000 years, the years of Torah, were the years in which Torah flourished, a period which closed with the ending of the Tannaic era (2001-4,000 (1762 B.C.E. to approximately 238 C.E.). The third 2,000 years are the years (4001-6000) during which it is possible for Mashiach to come. (Dates on the Christian/Gregorian calendar are inaccurate, and thus unreliable, due to internal discrepancies in that system of calendaring.)
During the first 2000 years, the years of “nothingness,” Adam sinned, Hevel was murdered, idolatry was rampant, ten generations from Adam to Noah had been eliminated by the Flood (Mabul [מבול]), and the ten generations from Noah to Abram (whose name HaShem would later change to “Abraham”) had also failed to be righteous.
In the year 2000 on the Jewish calendar, a year which we know from the Talmud marked the beginning of the 2000 year era during which Torah flourished, and which was also four years after the Dispersion and six years before the death of Noah, Abram started to proselytize to a pagan world about HaShem and monotheism.
Thus, after twenty generations of moral and spiritual failings of mankind, Abram was selected by HaShem to be the patriarch of HaShem’s Chosen People, the people who would receive the Torah and work to bring all of mankind to accept the sovereignty of HaShem.
However, in order to become the patriarch of the Jewish people, Abram had to pass ten tests of faith. The first test was to leave his ancestorial home and relocate in Eretz Yisra’el. Because of this test, Abram came to be known as the “Hebrew,” a name which in the Hebrew language is pronounced “Ivri” [עִברִי]. The 3-letter root of both “Ivri” [עִברִי] (a person) and “Ivrit” [עִברִית] (the language) is “ר -ב -ע (reading from right to left),” which means “opposite side.” Thus, we see that Abram, in the literal sense, moved from the “opposite side” of the Euphrates River in order to arrive in Eretz Yisra’el. In a deeper sense, however, Abram moved from side of immorality and spiritual nothingness to the “opposite side,” the side which represents HaShem, truth, monotheism, morality, and spirituality.
In Hebrew, words which share a common root (usually 3-letters) are related to each other in some fashion or manner. Thus, it is not surprising to see that the word for a Hebrew person, the word for the Hebrew language, and the word for “opposite side,” all represent a people; a language; and an understanding of morality, righteousness, and truth, that are on the “opposite side” as compared to those of the other nations of the world.
Thus, as Abram learned, righteous people must be willing to distance themselves, both physically and spiritually, from the masses and from popular culture. Most people want to be liked by their peers; however, a righteous person understands that the majority is not always correct (and perhaps is usually not correct) and must be willing to do what is right, even, or especially, at the expense of the approval of others.
With this background, we turn now to Parashat Lekh-Lekha, when Abram and Sarai, 75 and 65 years of age, respectively, were told by HaShem to:
The precedent for making Aliyah [עליה], which, literally translated, means to “rise” or “go up,” whether spiritually or physically, and which also means for a Jew to immigrate to Eretz Yisra’el, was set by none other than Abraham and Sarah.
Just as HaShem commanded Abraham and Sarah to “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” – to Eretz Yisra’el – He also commanded Jews the world-over, for all time, even, and perhaps especially, today, to also make Aliyah. This command includes, without limitation, Jews from Beijing, Beverly Hills, Boca Raton, Bombay, Boro Park, Brussels, and everywhere else.
May you, dear Jew, be blessed to “Go for Yourself,” to make Aliyah, to go up to Eretz Yisra’el, the Land HaShem gave you as an inheritance.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.