Erev Food Day Shabbat D’var Torah 10.23.2015

Food Day is a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food. Each year thousands of events around the country bring Americans together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to take action. Food Day inspires Americans to change their diets and our food policies. With Food Day, we can celebrate our food system when it works and fix it when it’s broken. Across the country, more than 8,000 events took place in 2014, including community festivals, panel discussions, and school activities.

Every week’s Torah portion, if we look closely, has an agricultural or food connection. Providing sustenance in tune with the earth is integrated into the ways and teachings of the founding of our religion. A LOT happens in the portion of Lech Lecha. For our sake, here are the highlights:

God says to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you;…” Abram takes wife, his nephew Lot, and his whole entourage and goes to this new place of Canaan where he continues his monotheism mission. Then, there is a famine in the land, and Abram takes the whole crew down to Egypt. Some stuff happens there where he pretends to be Sarai’s brother, but it all works out and when they return, Abram is a rich man (as is his nephew Lot). Then we reac:

The land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.” (Genesis 13: 6)

And so Abram and Lot went their separate ways (Lot in plains of Jordan, near Sodom & Gomorrah, and Abram in the hill country of Canaan). Later an intertribal war breaks out, Lot and his family are captured, and when Abram hears, he frees Lot and his family. God again promises Abram that the land will go to him and his heirs. God also promises Sarai will have a child… and lots more drama ensues!

Questions for discussion:

  • What could make Abram and Lot so incompatible?
  • What resolution might you propose?
  • How might that parallel today in areas where foes and/or friends are sharing land and resources? Is a similar resolution to biblical times possible today?

Commentary (via Tuvia Aaronson via

“The great commentator Rashi (France 1040-1105) interprets the verse to mean that the land was simply unable to provide sufficient pasture for all the cattle and sheep involved. It is as if there is missing information intended to be inserted in the verse: “And the [pasture of the] land could not bear them.”

An alternative approach is that of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany 1808-1888) and the “Netziv” (Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin -Russia 1817-1893). It was not because they had too many herds or because there was not sufficient pastureland for both of them. If it all had been combined into one herd, one household, the land would have been sufficient. If two people cannot agree, separate tents are needed, everything separate for each of the two parties. According to this approach, Avram and Lot’s attitudes were incompatible, therefore they could not co-operate.”

Questions for discussion:

  • When do you make decisions based on environmental considerations (Rashi) or social considerations (Rav Hirsch)? (Think about your decision making when buying food, or eating at a friend’s home (or not), or travelling…)
  • Is one more compelling the majority of the time?


Abram and Lot went their separate ways because Abram would not make a treaty with Lot. It is said Lot would let his herds graze on the lands they were passing through while Abram moved his herds on. In the laws of settling the land of Israel: one is told not to tend flocks in a way that damages the property of others (Hilkhot Yishuv HaAretz). Abram would not compromise with Lot on this such that he splits up his large family and yet later rescues Lot and saves his life and his family.

Abram shows us his deep care for others, for the other land owners and for his family. Unbalanced greed is later said to be a cause of the destruction of the Second Temple and subsequent exile from the land. We balance our relationships with the realities of the material world. Abram was given a mission to prioritize one God and create a dwelling place for God in this world. It was accomplished only when he left his birthplace and natural environment and went forth on a journey.

Questions for discussion:

  • Lech Lecha is translated as both “Go by yourself” and “Go into yourself.” Which translation do you think is more appropriate to describe Abrams’ journey?
  • Do you think a journey is necessary to accomplish greatness? Is it physical or spiritual or both? What elements are critical for that journey?