Parshas Lech Licha: The Jewelry Heist

By BJLife/Rabbi Moshe Pruzansky

Posted on 10/14/21

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This week’s parshah begins with Hashem telling Avraham Avinu to leave his home and that he would be greatly rewarded for doing so. Avaraham obeyed and, by doing so, he passed one of his monumental 10 nisyonos (tests).

Did Avraham, the father & first of the Avos, really need to be bribed with the promise of being rewarded in order to do Hashem’s will? Furthermore, wouldn’t any of us relocate as well, if we received a nevuah directly from Hashem, not only instructing us to do so, but also, with the absolute promise that doing so will result in tremendous wealth, honor, etc? Why was this considered one of Avaraham Avinu’s legendary nisyonos?

R’ Yoel Gold once featured a video presenting those who were personally involved in the following, true, story: Sefardic brothers Isaac and Albert Falchi co-owned a very successful jewelry store. One Friday night, their families were having the Shabbos seudah together. Suddenly, during Kiddush, the phone rang. Of course, nobody answered it or thought much about it. However, with their particular phone, when a voicemail was left, it would play out-loud over the phone’s speaker phone. What the Falchi’s heard from the voicemail got their attention;  It was their store’s security company leaving the following voicemail: “This is the ADT alarm monitoring team. There was a zone three break-in at your jewelry store! Please call us back right away”. The brothers looked at each other in disbelief. Zone three was the zone right where their safe was! The families’ entire livelihood was at stake - the safe held millions of dollars worth of their products, including gold & diamonds. If someone successfully emptied the safe, their business would be ruined. Isaac turned to his brother and said, “What’s our plan?”. Albert responded, with determination in his voice, “Isaac, Shabbat is Shabbat! We have no plan. We [will] give-up all of our money [if we have to,] for Hashem. I’m not leaving.”

All night long, the phone continued to ring. The brothers were distraught, but kept repeating, to themselves and to their worried families, “Shabbat is Shabbat”. Determined to stay calm, they kept to their Shabbos routine the following day until havdallah. Afterwards, Isaac and Albert quickly drove to their store together dreading what they were certain they would fine: all of their wealth completely gone.

As they pulled up, they were surprised to see that the store looked intact. Upon further investigation, they found that the security gate and locks were both intact and didn’t look like they had been touched by intruders. Externally, the store looked fine. Isaac said, “Albert, I’m going inside. Say some Tehillim”. Inside, the store was a disaster. There was a lot of broken glass and empty showcase boxes had been thrown all around. “The most important thing is the safe, where the gold and the diamonds are kept,Isaac told himself. He went to open the safe. It took several minutes, as he was so nervous, his hands shook terribly when entering the combination. He was shocked, and relieved, to find that everything was still in place – not a single thing was moved or taken! This was a true mystery. The outside was untouched, yet the store had obviously been breached. How had the thieves gotten in or out? More importantly, why did only the alarm near the safe go off?

A patrolling policeman noticed the brothers standing outside. Albert explained what they knew, and requested help. The officer said, “wait here”, and went inside to investigate. After spending a few minutes inside, the officer went to the brothers and asked, “If the alarm company called you last night, why are you only here now?’. “Friday night was our Sabbath”, they replid. “We wouldn’t break it for all the money in the world. Shabbat is Shabbat”. The policeman was taken aback. “Well”, he said, “your Shabbat and your G-d, saved your life!”. Confused, they asked, “What do you mean?”. The officer explained that this type of break-in was common in jewelry stores being robbed by professionals. The thieves would come from the roof of the building and crawl into the store through the vent. They would then, purposely, activate the alarm by the safe & wait silently for the owner to arrive and check the safe. After the safe is open, the thieves would jump down, take the life of the owner, and then take everything from the safe. “They were likely waiting for you all night long. If you had come when called, they would have taken your lives and the contents of your safe.”

The Ohr HaChaim points out that right after Hashem promised Avraham incredible blessings if he would leave his birthplace, the pasuk states “vayelech Avraham ka’asher deeber Hashem - and Avraham went as Hashem commanded”; and not for any other reason whatsoever (12:4; See there, where the Ohr HaChaim further proves this). Avraham Avinu did not obey Hashem in order to get the reward; he wasn’t focused at all on the millions of dollars in wealth, etc. being promised to him. Rather, his sole motivation was doing so because that’s what Hashem had instructed him to, &, what Hashem says goes, even though it meant him sacrificing his birthplace and all of the comfort that came along with it. By doing so SOLELY because Hashem had instructed him, Avraham passed one of his 10 nisyonos and earned infinite merit for himself and all of his descendants.

Avraham’s doing so also ingrained into our national DNA the ability to follow in his example, and to stay focused solely on obeying Hashem’s command, while ignoring the thoughts of pursuing material wealth - as the actions of the Farhi brothers, among thousands of others throughout our nation’s history, have demonstrated*.

Living Inspired

Although performing a mitzvah is always special - no matter what one’s motivation may be - we can learn from our parshah that by far the greatest way to serve Hashem is lishmah (simply because Hashem commanded us to do so, without thought of the reward one will receive). As the fact that the above counted as passing one of Avraham’s 10 nisyonos illustrates, doing so multiplies the value of any mitzvah that we perform, exponentially. As the Mishnah in Avos states (paraphrased): it is best to serve Hashem lishmah (not for the sake of being rewarded, but because it is the right thing to do. Avos 1:3. See there).**

We are all B’H already involved with performing so many mitzvos each and every day. Why not take it to the next level? The next time that you make a bracha, listen to your parents, go to work, do an act of kindness, learn***, etc. think for one moment that you are doing so solely because Hashem commanded you to. Even if you only mean it a little bit****, doing so adds incredible value to the mitzvah and can be accomplished on a regular basis. May we all merit to do so more and more often, with more and more sincerity.

Gut Shabbos


*- See the Nesivos Shalom’s second piece on Lech Licha as well, where he further develops this point.

**- Of course, it is better to do a mitzvah with motivation for reward, than not to do it at all. Even doing a mitzvah shelo lishmah is valuable, as it brings one eventually to do it lishmah (as the Gemara states: Mitzvah shelo lishmah, bo lishmah. Sanhedrin 105b. Nazir 23b).

***- Although the Nefesh HaChaim would not necessarily add “learning” to this list. He states that uniquely when it comes to the mitzvah of learning Torah in particular, doing so for the sake of learning Torah is considered “lishmah”. See there, Sha’ar Daled.

****- R’ Miller illustrates the fact that doing something lishmah while also having other motivation, certainly counts, from the fact that there is an issur doraiysa to consume blood. Now, blood naturally repulses most people. Can anyone say in full honesty that they don’t consume blood 100% lishmah and not for any other reason whatsoever (i.e. that they are repulsed by it anyways)?