Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Lech-Lecha: Maaseh Abot
Back to Sefer Beresheet
Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi
Lech-Lecha 12:6 "And Abraham passed through the land until the place of Shehem, until Elon Moreh, and the Canaanim were then in the land."
Lech-Lecha 12:7 "And God appeared to Abraham. and he [Abraham] built an altar to the God that appeared to him."
Lech-Lecha 12:8 ".Bet-El . VeHaai ."
As Abraham left his homeland to walk through the land of Israel, we see a series of places that Abraham visited. In the ensuing pesukim and parasha, we see the experiences of Abraham (for example going to Egypt due to the famine), and how he succeeded in these trials.
The Ramban sees all these experiences and adventures in a very interesting light. There is a big concept in our Gemara: "Maaseh Abot Siman LaBanim". That which our forefathers endure, will be an example of what will occur to the sons.
Before explaining this concept in the context of our parasha, we need to understand the power of a "Maaseh", an "action".
If a prophet is told to do an action, and not only profess his prophecy, there is a stronger link to the prophecy coming true. As an example, when Yermiah was told about the fall of the Babylonian empire, Hashem instructed Yermiah to write the prophecy on a piece of parchment and attach a stone, and throw it into a water-hole for it to sink. It symbolized the fall of Babel, which in the time of Yermiah, was a very strong empire. Not only did Yermiah have to say his prophecy but rather also do an action (writing the prophecy and throwing it into the water-hole) makes the prophecy stronger.
All the prophecies that Hashem gave Abraham about his offspring, are certain to be true for he did an action on each prophecy. This is what the credo above is coming to say to us (Maaseh Abot Siman LaBanim), that the action of our forefathers will be an example for us. The Ramban then proceeds to explain the various experiences of Abraham in an historic light, so that we can understand that we have gone through similar tribulations.
One example: Soon after Abraham arrived into Israel, there was a terrible famine that forced Abraham to go to Egypt. This is similar to Yaacob who went down to Egypt with 70 people that later grew to millions, that stayed in Egypt for 210 years, until Moshe delivered them to freedom.
In essence, history does repeat itself.