Sharing Torah Insights

Famine

Posted on י״ב במרחשון ה׳תש״ע (October 30, 2009) | in Lech Lecha | by

This week’s portion brings us to the life of Avram. Avram obeys G-d’s command to leave his place of dwelling, and eventually arrives at Canaan. After Canaan, we are told that Avram pitches his tent with Beth El on the west and the Ai on the east. And then Avram goes down to Egypt.

ויסע אברם הלוך וננסוע הנגבה: ויהי רעב בארץ וירד אברם מצרימה לגור שם כי כבד הרעב בארץ

(בראשית יב, ט-י)

Then Avram traveled on, journeying steadily toward the south. There was a famine in the land, and Avram descended to Egypt to travel there, for the famine was severe in the land. (Genesis 12, 9-10)

The Midrash explains that there are ten different famines that are to plague the world. One was during the days of Adam, the second was in the days of Lemech, and the third one was in the days of Avram. The last famine that will come to the world will be at the end of days, before the arrival of Mashiach. As the Prophet says,

הנה ימים באים… והשלחתי רעב בארץ לא רעב ללחם ולא צמא למים כי אם לשמוע את דברי ה

(עמוס ח, יא)

Behold, days are coming… and I shall send out a hunger onto the land. Not a hunger for bread, and not a thirst for water, but rather [a hunger] to hear the words of G-d. (Amos 8, 11)

In Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, it is said that the last famine will be the most difficult of them all. This seems to be odd- isn’t a famine for the words of G-d a good thing? People hungry for religion, for guidance in life, returning to their roots; isn’t this exactly what G-d wants of us?

To answer this question, we must look deeper into the very definition and effects of a famine. What is the benefit that emerges from the years of famine? People learn to be satisfied with the little resources available. In a famine, even a few bread crumbs are seen as an elaborate and nutritious meal. In a drought, every precious drop of water is conserved. For example, the people of Africa who live in drought conditions don’t care whether or not their water is clean and bacteria-free. When there is a drought, one takes what there is, or dies. Even a few drops of water are seen as satisfying substance.

Explains the Ponovizer Rov, a very similar case will emerge when the hunger for G-d’s word begins. People will be satisfied with even the very little amount of spiritual guidance they find in life. They won’t check to see whether or not their religions is pure, whether what they are returning to is true Judaism. People will be content with gimmicks. We should take a message from this week’s portion, to always make sure that what we believe in is pure and correct- we cannot settle for anything less than the truth.

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