Lech-Lecha: 75 years of Landmark Rebirth of National Identity
BY RABBANIT SHANI TARAGIN
What an honor to contribute to HaMizrachi’s celebration of 75 years of Israel’s independence as a sovereign Jewish state! As we share our dreams for the future of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, it is also appropriate to appreciate the unique significance of Israel’s milestone 75th birthday.
In Tanach, most numbers are usually “rounded off” to the nearest ten or hundred. Tanach and Tannaitic literature are replete with teachings about the significance of the number 70, which represents the many languages and nations of the world, facets of Torah, names of Jerusalem, and more. Yet there is a remarkable 75 year landmark in Jewish history which marks a significant stage in our national development and warrants celebration and reflection.
“Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the Land that I will show you” (Bereishit 12:1). At the advanced age of 75, Avraham Avinu made his landmark entrance to the land of Canaan. Avraham forfeited his entire past – his Mesopotamian identity, his birthplace, and, most challengingly, his family – to forge a new identity in an unknown destination. For 75 years, Avraham lived with his father and was known as one of the “toldot,” “generations,” of Terach, together with his brothers Nachor and Haran (11:27). But then everything changed. At 75, Avraham entered Canaan and was promised: “To your seed I will give this Land” – that he would have children who would inherit the Land. Avraham then endured 25 years of trials, tribulations, famines, battles and family tension, while also securing Divine covenants of national history (brit bein haBetarim) and religious identity (brit milah). Finally, at the age of 100, G-d fulfilled His promise and blessed Avraham with a son from Sarah who would inherit the Land and perpetuate Avraham’s national-religious identity.
Yitzchak’s birth begins the next era of Avraham’s life – 75 years of living in the Land with his promised progeny! Avraham lived 75 childless years outside of Canaan, then 25 years in a new land without father or child, edifying himself and others in monotheistic belief and values, and finally, at age 100, he begins a new era of 75 years in the Promised Land with the promised child!
During the final 75 years of his life, what does Avraham do to chart a trajectory for generations to come? He casts out Yishmael to properly invest in Yitzchak, clarifying and forging his family’s identity, and signs “Abrahamic accords” with his Philistine neighbors. He undergoes another “Lech-Lecha” moment, this time to Mount Moriah, demonstrating his willingness to sacrifice his son for G-d and forfeit not only his past and present values, but also his entire future, subsequently meriting an unconditional oath from Hashem that his descendants will inherit the Land. Following the death of Sarah, he actively secures his covenantal legacy of land and nation through purchasing a burial plot in Chevron and finding a wife for Yitzchak.
The birth of Yitzchak heralded the second stage of Avraham’s life as a personal and national patriarch, a “founding father” of our nation and land. Avraham passed away 75 years later as an “אָב הֲמוֹן גּוֹיִים,” a “father of a multitude of nations,” buried by both Yitzchak and Yishmael in the Me’arat HaMachpelah he painstakingly purchased for his descendants.
Chazal explain that the calculations of G-d’s everlasting promise of inheritance of the Land following exile, formalized in the the brit bein haBetarim, began with the birth of Yitzchak (Rashi, Bereishit 15:13 and Megillah 9a). Like the 75 ensuing years of Avraham’s life, the 75 years since our national rebirth in 1948 were fraught with great sacrifice and difficult decisions to assure the future of our family / national identity. Like Avraham our father, we have witnessed the fulfillment of Divine promises over the past 75 years, accompanied by challenges within our own family and struggles with neighbors of different faiths and values.
During his final 75 years of life after the birth of Yitzchak, Avraham rejected complacency and refused to passively await the materialization of G-d’s dreams and promises. Instead, Avraham chose to write history together with G-d and actively pursue and secure his destiny. Similarly, the 75 years since our national rebirth have taught us essential lessons: that security comes with sacrifice, forfeiting land for peace has consequences, building homes for the future is essential and forging family identity within the Jewish people is critical to our survival.
With G-d’s help, may the next 75 years bring us, the children of Avraham Avinu, greater brotherhood, security and international influence. And may we continue the journey of “Lech-Lecha,” planting, perpetuating, educating and building, for the generations to come!
Rabbanit Shani Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and the Director of the Mizrachi-TVA Lapidot Educators’ Program.