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23/25 November: Parsha Lech Lecha

Shabbat comes in at 5.36pm, goes out at 6.37pm
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Islam points to Ishmael as its spiritual ancestor, just as Judaism points to Yitzhak and Ya’akov, as the heirs of God’s covenant with Avraham. The Koran and the Torah share a story about the binding and near sacrifice of one of Avraham’s sons; in the Islamic story, that son is Ishmael, and in the Judeo-Christian story, it is Yitzhak.
Yet even in the Torah, both sons share a near-death experience, and both are delivered by Divine intervention. A ram replaces Yitzhak on the altar, and Ishmael, exiled from Avraham’s household with his mother Hagar, nearly dies of thirst before God’s angel once again appears to Hagar, showing her a lifesaving spring of water.
Both are in “God’s favour”. God is with Ishmael as he grows up, but we don’t have any account of what God might have said to Ishmael during those years when “God was with the boy” (Gen. 21:20). Who knows how God might have described or thought of their relationship ?  We only know that God makes the same promise in substance to both Avraham and Ishmael – to make of them a goy gadol, “a great nation”. In ancient Hebrew, “great” means numerous. My modern mind also wonders if our nations will achieve “greatness,” as in excellence.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Paul Arberman
October 22, 2015