Lech'lecha

     (12:1) “Lech Lecha M’artzecha Umimoladitcha U’mibeis Avicha-Go to yourself from your country, from your birthplace and from your father’s house.” Avraham, the ultimate Baal Teshuva, is about to transform his entire being. Go to yourself M'artzecha-from your land- go from the physicality of this world, Moladditcha-from

your birthplace-from the character traits you were born with. U’mibeis Avicha-From your fathers home-from all of the negative teachings that you were raised with.

   (12:1) “Lech Lecha M’artzecha Umimoladitcha U’mibeis Avicha-Go to yourself from your country, from your birthplace and from your father’s house.” Hashem commanded Avraham to go to himself, to set out on establishing a name for himself and for Hashem. Most commentators include this as the third of the ten trials of faith which Hashem tested Avraham. In the very next posuk Hashem tells Avraham that he will make him into a great nation, bless him, and make his name great. What type of test is this? Being offered all these rewards, anyone would follow Hashem’s directives? Perhaps Hashem’s test was to see the true motivation behind Avraham’s actions. Would he perform the will of Hashem solely for the sake of Hashem, or for the rewards? Only Hashem can know the motivations of the heart. This could also explain another question about this test.

   According to Pirke D’Rebbe Eliezer the first of Avraham’s trials was having to hide underground from Nimrod for thirteen years, because he sought to kill Avraham for his beliefs. The second trial for him was being thrown into the fiery furnace again because of his beliefs, but he would not renounce Hashem. However the Torah never mentions these tests outright. The first mention of a test is the third one of “Lech Lecha” to uproot himself and move to another country. Why aren’t the first two mentioned?

 

   The Gemarra in Kiddushin (31B) says “Gadol Hametzuveh V’oseh M’me Sh’ayno Metzuveh V’oseh-Greater is one who is commanded to act and does so than one who is not commanded and does so.” Why isn’t a mitzvah performed voluntarily, when not commanded, a greater display of one’s desire to fulfill Hashem’s word than a mitzvah done when commanded? The ultimate level in performing a mitzvah is if it is done solely because it is the will of Hashem, without any ulterior motives. Even though doing a mitzvah when not commanded does display a great desire to do Hashem’s will to Avraham, it still stems from self-motivation and not Divine decree. This perhaps can answer the question of the first two tests not being mentioned in the Torah. Because they were not commanded to Avraham, by Hashem they didn’t show how Avraham performed the will of Hashem. They came from his own initiative. But the trial of “Lech Lecha” not only displayed Avraham’s performance of Hashem’s will, it showed how even in the face of reward, his motivations were pure. The ability to negate one’s self for Hashem is at the root of what a Jew is. The trial of “Lech Lecha” is the first mentioned in the Torah because it was the beginning of the process that would eventually correct the original sin of Adam. At least in some part, the sin of Adam was to second guess Hashem to believe that he could serve Hashem better through his own actions. Avraham placed into the spiritual genetics of Klal Yisroel this ability to negate himself to the will of Hashem. The words “Lech Lecha” equal 104 in gematria (including the letters) the same as the words “Nediv Leibo” (a giving heart).

(12:1) “Lech Lecha M’artzecha Umimoladitcha U’mibeis Avicha-Go to yourself from your country, from your birthplace and from your father’s house.” The parsha begins with Hashem telling Avraham to leave his home and that he will make him into a great nation, he will bless him and make his name great and “you will be a bracha.” In all there are seven blessings that were bestowed on Avraham at this time. This became the source for the “Sheva Brochos” we have for newlyweds to this very day. Just as Avraham left his fathers home to start a new life, so too newlyweds leave their childhood homes and embark on a new life, We therefore emulate the actions of Hashem when we perform a Sheva Brochos for a newly wed couple.

   (12:1) “Lech Lecha M’artzecha Umimoladitcha U’mibeis Avicha-Go to yourself from your country, from your birthplace and from your father’s house.” The parsha begins with Hashem telling Avraham to leave his home and that he will make him into a great nation, he will bless him and make his name great and “you will be a bracha.” Rashi says what it means when it says he will make you into a great nation is what we say in Shemone Esrei the G-D of Avraham, I will bless you that is what we say the G-D of Yitzchok, I will make your name great that is what we say the G-D of Yakov. So Rashi goes on to say that you would think we should finish off with all of them. Meaning the bracha in Shemone Esrei Mogain Avraham should end with Mogain Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov. That is what it means when it says and you will be a bracha. We finish off the bracha with Avraham not the other Avos.  

The Kotzker Rebbe says this is talking about the end of time. There are three things that sustain the world’s existence. Torah, Avodah and Chesed. Each of the Avos represented one of these midos. Avraham was the midah of Chesed. Yitzchok the midah of Avodah and Yakov was Torah. You might think that since Klal Yisroel received these traits from the Avos, that they would endure, that these midos would still be with us at the end of history. But we see that through the generations the midah of Torah is diminished the midah of Avodah is diminished. Only this midah of Chesed is as strong if not stronger than it was in the past. More Tzaddaka is given nowadays then ever before in Jewish history. That is the meaning of “you will be a bracha.” That Avraham's midah of chesed will be what sustains the world at the end of time. We are commanded to learn Torah. But how many of us will be the Gadol Ha’dor. However with regard to Chesed each of us have the capability to become giants in this trait. This is what will bring the Geulah, may it come speedily in our day.

   But there is another way to view this comment. R.Shimon Shkop interprets this in light of historical events that began to develop in his days. Each of the Avos has a character trait in which they excelled beyond the others. Avraham was unique in that he was brought up in a home that was devoid of belief in the true Hashem. He was thus a true seeker and finder of the spiritual truth. He was the originator of the first Kiruv movement, bringing people closer to Hashem. This is the intention of the words “B’cho Chosmin.” At the end of days it will be the “Chasimoh” it will be Avraham’s trait that brings Moshiach, the teshuvah movement.

   (12:1) “Lech Lecha M’artzecha Umimoladitcha U’mibeis Avicha-Go to yourself from your country, from your birthplace and from your father’s house.” This is the first mentioning of the Ten trials of Avraham. The question is did he pass the test? According to the Ramban he did not. Hashem told him to go to “the land that He will show him.” Eretz Canaan, but as soon as he got there he became faced with a famine and left. Hashem never told him he could leave.

The Ramban maintains that had Avraham not left Eretz Yisroel no future generation would have been forced into exile.

   The Oznayim L’Torah writes that Avraham didn’t leave because of personal discomfort G-d forbid. But rather his concern was for his Yeshiva. Avraham was in the business of bringing people close to Hashem. As such he would make a lavish spread to attract people to his home. When the famine struck this became impossible for him to continue, so he left for Mitzrayim. This can help explain how Avraham could say to his wife as they were traveling down to Mitzrayim, “Imri Nah Achosi At L’mann Yitav Li Bavurech V’choysa Nafshi B’glalech-Say that you are my sister in order that it be well with me for your sake and that I may live on account of you.” Rashi says the words “L’mann Yitav Li” means “They will give me gifts.” Would we dare say that by mentioning the gifts first Avraham was more concerned with physical gifts than his very life? But according to what we said we can explain his words as follows. That it may be well for me (ie. the Egyptians will give me gifts) so that I may maintain my Yeshiva, then V’choysa Nafshi my life long mission may remain alive.

Lech Lecha begematria is 100. The blessings in the following verses, that he would become a great nation etc. would be realized when he would be 100 years old. When Yitzchok will be born.(Baal Haturim) Also Avraham was to be a Tikun for the previous generations. The Dore of The Mabel, The Dore Enosh, and the Dore Hafloge. The first letters of each of these generations are Mem, Aleph and Hey. Which spells Maeyah (100).

   The fact that Bris =612 in Gematria shows that the mitzvah of Milah is equal to the rest of the mitzvos in the Torah.

We say that Avraham did all the mitzvahs in the Torah. Why did he wait until he was 99 years old before doing this mitzvah of Bris Milah? The Gemarra in Kiddushin (31B) says “Gadol Hametzuveh V’oseh M’me Sh’ayno Metzuveh V’oseh-Greater is one who is commanded to act and does so than one who is not commanded and does so.”  Because doing a mitzvah when you are not commanded to is not as great as doing it when commanded. Since Bris Milah, unlike other mitzvahs can only be done once in a lifetime, Avraham waited to be commanded.

It says that Avram could not have children. But Avraham could after his name was changed. What about Ishmael? He was already born at this point? And he was still called Avram?

The answer is that Avram feared he would have no son as an heir. Therefore Hashem assured him that Avram would not have a son who would be an heir but Avraham would. Another answer is that the astrological sign concerned Avram & Sarah as a pair could have no children. But Avram and Hagar was something else.

     (12:5) “Vayikach Avram es Sarai-Ves Hanefesh Asher Asu B’choron-And Avram took his wife Sarai and the souls that he made in Charan.” Did they make souls or did they teach students? Why are the students called souls? The Gemarrah says “Olam Chessed Yiboneh-the world is built on chessed” And it points out that the Torah begins with chessed and ends with chessed. Following the sin of Adom and Chava Hashem expelled them from Gan Eden. He could have said you are on your own; I want nothing to do with you. But instead He made them clothes of leather. He showed them special care and concern. He extended to Adom and Chava a special chessed.

   At the end of the Torah we read that Hashem personally buried Moshe Rabeinu which is called Chessed Shel Emes a true Chessed because the recipient cannot repay the kindness done to him. Hashem put into man the capacity to emulate Hashem. Just as He is kind, man has that capacity to be kind as well. There is a type of Chessed that is unique to man. An animal will show compassion and concern because that is how the Creator designed them. A mother cat will protect her offspring but that same cat will not protect the offspring of another. Humans however are completely different. They were given the free will to choose to do Chessed. This character trait was something that was lost in the generations prior to Avraham. It was supposed to be the hallmark of every human being not just the Jewish people. Instead man chose to be not like Hashem but to be like the other animals in the world, concerned only about himself, his own needs, his own desires, and his own survival.

   When the posuk says “Vayikach Avram es Sarai-Ves Hanefesh Asher Asu B’choron-And Avram took his wife Sarai and the souls that he made in Charan.” It means that Avram and Sarah awoke in their students the divine qualities that Hashem instilled in the human race. They taught them how to care for more than themselves, how to do chessed, how to emulate Hashem. Therefore Hashem rewarded them by giving their children a lifestyle of Torah and mitzvos that trains them to do even more Chessed.

   The Shelah writes that the "Souls" refer to the souls created from intimacy that did not produce children. However these souls later went on to become converts.

   Why does the posuk mention that they left the land of Canaan and they arrived in the land of Canaan? Avram and his family did not stop along the way but came directly to their intended destination. This is meant to point out the contrast to Terach who also left for Canaan but only got as far as Charan.(Radak/Soforno)

     (12:6) “V’Ha'Canaani Az B’Aretz- The descendants of Canaan were in the land.” This tells us they were conquering the land from the descendants of Shem who were given it from Noach after the flood. So when Hashem says he will give the land of Canaan to Benei Yisroel, he is giving it back to the rightful owners, since Canaan stole it from them originally.

   The question is why did they merit having possession of Eretz Yisroel? Why did they merit having it called by their name? Canaan was the cursed nation, how could they obtain the most blessed land? The sefer Otzer Chaim quotes the Ramban and says that Hashem gave this land to Canaan for safekeeping. They should have been like an Eved to watch it for Yisrael. Avdus for Canaan was not only punishment but also a Tikun for him. Noach’s idea was that he would have a fourth son after the flood, which would be the eved of the first three sons. They would be able to devote their lives to more spiritual pursuits free of worry. Just like Yissachar and Zevoulon. Cham ruined this idea so Noach cursed his fourth son, Canaan, to be an eved to his brothers. However he would only remain cursed if he Canaan, wasn’t Machniya himself, humble himself to his brothers. If he would be their eved as was Noach’s original plan, this Orur (cursed) would turn into a Boruch (blessed). He would be like Zevoulon (and Eliezer who turned into a Boruch). Eretz Yisroel fell into the hands of Canaan for safekeeping. Canaan was supposed to be the trusted eved to Benei Sheim. Then he would have been called Boruch. The Canaanim were able to have the land stay in their name because of two instances where they did humble themselves. First when Avraham was purchasing the burial plot for Sarah from Benei Chayse, who were descendants of Canaan, it says (23:6) “Nesi Elokim Atoh B’sochainy-You are a prince of Hashem in our midst.” And again when heard that Klal Yisroel was entering the land, they turned towards them. Hashem said “You turned towards my children- I’m naming the land after you.”

   The word Az equals eight hinting that the eighth generation will conquer the land. (Midrash Hagadol)

   (12:7) “Vayereh Hashem Aylav...Vayiven Shom Mizbeach L’Hashem Hanireh Aylav-Hashem appeared to him...and he built an altar to Hashem who appeared to him.” The posuk seems repetitive. It starts off with Hashem appearing to him and ends off with the words “Hashem who appeared to him?” Also why didn’t Avraham build an altar after the first encounter, when Hashem told him to leave his home and he would be blessed?

Perhaps there, by the first encounter, he was still in Golus. Now after reaching Eretz Yisroel he was being drawn closer and closer to the source of Kiddusha. This is why the Torah keeps mentioning his traveling south. The Tiferes Tzion writes that Eretz Yisroel has different levels of Kiddusha. He was thanking Hashem for now being privy to a higher level of prophecy. Reaching Har Moriah he built an altar. The words Ha’Nireh Aylav-Who appeared to him equal 308 as does the words Zeh Har Elokim-This is the mountain of Hashem

   (12 :10) “Vayehe Rov B'aretz- And there was a famine in the land.” This was the first famine in the history of the world. Avraham was preaching the virtues of monotheism. Yet no sooner does he arrive at the land Hashem is commanding him to dwell in and the first famine breaks out! How difficult this must have been for Avraham to endure. How did the inhabitants of Canaan view him and his preaching when his arrival seemed to bring such misfortune. Yet Avraham never wavered in his faith.

     (12:11) “Vayihe Kasher Hikriv Lovo Mitzroymah Vayomer el-Soray Ishto Henei-Nah Yodaty Ki Isha Yefas-Mareh Ott-And it occurred, as he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, Now I know that you are a woman of beautiful appearance.” The Beis Halevy says that Man has the ability, through his free will to be able to affect nature. Man, through his actions can change the spiritual standing of the entire world. When there is a Tzaddik in the world his actions raise up everyone else. On the other hand someone who gives in to temptation, causes everyone else to be more susceptible to temptation. We can see this in terms of places too. If a person travels to a country that is prone to certain averous he can find that he is suddenly drawn to that specific averah. Not that he must submit to it. But it suddenly becomes an issue. It could be that this is what the Torah is telling us here. Egypt at the time was called “Ervas Ha’aretz.” It was the most promiscuous land of that time. The posuk mentions, “as he was about to enter Egypt.” It was then that he noticed his wife’s beauty. It was only then that the impurity of Egypt began to have an affect on them. And only then that it became an issue.

   At the end of last week’s parsha the Torah tells us that Sarah was barren. One of the reasons for this is that Hashem’s nation needed a new creation. There had to be a break from the past and it’s harmful influences. Only a completely fresh source could create a new family of Ovday Hashem.

(12:13) “L'man Yitav Li Bavurech- In order for it to be well with me for your sake.” Rashi says this refers to gifts. Avraham was certainly not concerned with material wealth. However being a great prophet he perceived how his actions would affect future generations. The Ramban writes the principal of “Maase Avos Simin L';banim-The acts of our forefathers are a sign for their offspring.” When the nation of Israel would leave Egypt, it would leave with great wealth. This was an outgrowth of the events that took place here. Just as Avraham became rich because of his wife, so too Klal Yisroel merited great wealth because of the righteous women of that generation. Just as Sarah emerged unscathed from her encounter with Pharoh, so too the women of Klal Yisroel were unharmed during their long servitude in Mitzrayim.

   (13:1) “Vayal Avram MiMitzrayim Hu V’ishto V’Chol Asher Lo V’lot Imo Hanegbah-Avram went up from Egypt, He and his wife and all that was his, And Lot was with them, to the south.” The words "Lote Imo" hint to the fact that when Benei Yisroel left Egypt the Erev Rav went with them.

The Sifsei Chachomim writes that Avraham told Sarah to say she was his sister and that they were looking for her missing husband. This would insure that she be left alone. Why then did Pharoh take her? He did not believe her and thought she was just trying to put him off.

   (13:7) “ V'ha'Canani V'haprizi Oz Yosheiv B'aretz-the Cananites and the Perizites were dwelling in that land at that time.” Earlier (12:6) the Torah mentions that the Canaanites were in the land but records it differently here? In our verse the word Yoshev is added. The Chasam Sofer explains that when there is strife amongst Israel, the nations unite in peace. But when Israel is united Hashem keeps the nations of the world busy feuding with each other instead of directing their attention against Israel.

   (13:14) "V'Hashem Omar el-Avraham Acharei Hiporad-Lote-Hashem spoke to Avraham after he separated from Lote." Hashem does not speak with Avraham until Lote leaves. Lote became corrupt after becoming wealthy from the Egyptian spoils. The fact that he left is significant because until now he was Avraham's only heir. Now, that not being the case, Hashem is promising Avraham children not being concerned that Lote would interfere.

   (13:17) "Kum Hishalech B'aretz-Arise and walk through the land." Previously the posuk says "View the land" The Kli Yakar writes That one was for spiritual acquisition, the other for physical.  

   (14:1) “Vayihi Bimai Amrafel- And it was in the days of Amraphel.” The word “Vayihi” is always a loshon of tzaar. This is because they were the first to shed blood in war. The story of the four kings beating the five kings is the first recording of war in history, but Avraham making a mizbe’ach precedes it. (13:18) “Vayiven shom mizbeach la'Hashem-He built there an Altar to Hashem.” The first letters of each spell SHALOM (peace). Avraham sensed that a tremendous negative thing was about to occur. So he prefaced it with a sign of something positive. It is interesting to note that the name Amraphel comes from the words Omer-Pol that means the one who said throw. This is referring to Nimrod who said throw Avraham into the fiery furnace. How is this connected to the war between the four kings? Rashi brings down a Midrash that says when the king of Sodom was miraculously rescued from the slime pits, many nations that previously did not believe in the miracle of Avraham’s rescue from the fiery furnace now believed. It was through the defeat of Amrapel(Nimrod) that the previous miracle became validated.

A mussar vort from the Benei Yissaschar: A person shouldn't go seek all kinds of ways to make parnossa and think that this will help him. He should realize that all his efforts will not really help by itself because everything comes from Hashem. This is what it says “Rabos Machshavos Blev Iish”-a person thinks and works for nought but Vaatzas Hashem Hi Sakum. The Roshe Tayvos of Rabos Machshovos Bleiv Ish is “AVRAM.” This is alluded to in the posuk of Lech Lecha M’artzcha. From the land that you cleave to such as the love of money etc. Umoladtecha Umibais Avicha this is the love of Yichus and kavod (honor). But you should only look at El Haaretz Asher Areka-this is what Hashem says, that is what will really be. Avraham was a person firm in his emunah.

The Midrash says that when Avraham was commanded to do Bris Milah, he consulted with three friends. Aner, Eshkol and Mamre whether to do it publicly during the day for a kiddush Hashem or to do it secretly at night to avoid remarks by scoffers and to avoid attacks by his enemies. Aner told him “It’s dangerous you’re too old. Don't do the Bris at all.” Eshkol agreed with Aner. Only Mamre was encouraging and showed his emunah by telling Avraham that as Hashem never forsook you in the past (the furnace, the war with the kings etc.) you should definitely listen to him here. His reward for this good advice was that Hashem said he would only appear to Avraham in “Alonai Mamre.”

   “Vaagadla Shemecha I will make your name great.” The Midrash says that Avraham minted a coin that was accepted throughout the world, a distinction held by only four people: Avraham, Yehoshua, Dovid and Mordechai. The coin had the likeness of Avraham and Sarah on one side and Yitzchok and Rivkah on the reverse.

   (14:12) “Vayikchu Lote, V’es Rechusho, Ben Achi Avram- They took Lote, and his possessions, the son of his brother. The order seems strange? It should read - “They took Lote his nephew, and his possessions.” The entire war was only because Lote was Avram’s nephew. This was a spiritual war against Avram who was drawing men away from idolatry. Hashem incited the kings to this invasion in order to aggrandize Avram’s name through their defeat and all would be attracted to the service of Hashem.

     (14:13) “Vayovo Hapolate-And there came the one that had escaped.”Rashi explains that this refers to Og who escaped the flood. The question is how he could have lived as long as he did being that he was a wicked person? His longevity was his punishment. Hashem punished him for wanting to kill Avraham by allowing him many years to see all of the offspring that came from Avraham.

     (14:15) “Vayaicholek Lohem Laylah-The night was divided for them.”Rashi writes that the night was divided in half. One half for saving Avraham, the other half to be set aside for the night of Pesach. The question is how are these two events connected? The Kol Torah writes that since Avraham unhesitatingly rushed to help Lote even though Lote openly abandoned Avraham's belief's, Hashem rewarded Avraham's descendants by saving them even when at times they were not worthy.

   The night was divided, light for Avraham and dark for the four kings. This later became part of Yetzias Mitzrayim. As it says "The children of Israel had light in all of their dwellings."

   (14:20) “Vayitane-Lo Maaser M’kol-And he gave a tenth of everything.” Avraham gave a tenth to Malchitzedek the king. How could that be when it says he didn't even take a shoestring from the spoils? One answer is it wasn't Avraham who gave the tenth but the king gave him a tenth. Another answer is that Avraham rescued the spoils and they became his possessions. He then gave the tenth but then afterward gave him the rest too.

   Why did Avraham take from the king of Mitzraim but not from the king of Sodom? How did he know that Hashem was not making him rich through this? Avraham knew that Hashem's blessing would not come through human suffering. Since the king of Sodom was giving these gifts in gratitude for being rescued, Avraham knew it wasn’t Hashem’s blessing. But Pharoh gave gifts in order to gain favor from Avraham.

   (14:22) “Harimosy Yadi el Hashem-I have lifted my arms to Hashem.” From this and many other actions, certain mitzvos were given to Yisroel. In this case the mitzvah of Tefillin. This was to show that all of our blessings are from Hashem and not by he strength of our own two hands.

   (15:4) "Lo Yirash Zeh-This one will not inherit."Why is Avraham concerned? Hashem has already promised him offspring? Chizkuni writes that this answers Avraham's concern that at his advanced age, even were he to have a son, he would be raised by Eliezer.

   (17:13) “Himoel Timoel es Yelid Baiso-He that is born of your houseold you shall surely circumsize. Chazal say that when Avraham was commanded to perform the bris milah he asked advice from Mamrei. How could Avraham have asked advice? The Midrash says that Avraham circumcised many babies before circumcising himself, but they all died, until his friend Mamrei advised him that it was only once he circumcised himself that he was permitted to circumcise others. This can be derived from the posuk (17:13) “Himol Yimol Y’lid Beiso- Circumcise all those born in your house.” Implying that one who has been circumcised may circumcise others. (Rosh)

   (17:26) “B’etzem Hayom Hazeh-On that very day.” On the day that Avraham did the Bris Milah it says “B’etzem Hayom Hazeh.” This day was the tenth of Tishrei (Yom Kippur). Every year Hashem sees the blood of Avraham's Milah and forgives all the sins of Yisroel. But if this day was Yom Kippur how was he able to perform the Bris Milah? The only time Milah can overrule Shabbos or Yom Tov is if it is preformed on the eighth day. Since this the Bris Milah was being done when Avraham was 99 years old, why was it done on Yom Tov? This could explain why the term “B’etzem Hayom Hazeh” is repeated in (17:23) and (17:26). The Torah wishes to emphasize that the bris took place on that very same day, the day that Hashem commanded him. Since it was the day that Avraham received the command it was equivalent to bris B’zmano (in its proper time) and therefore permitted on Yom Tov.

   This “B’etzem Hayom Hazeh” is not listed (by Rashi in Devarim) as one of the three times this statement is mentioned in the Torah. The first was by Noach going into the Teivah, the second by Yetzias Mitzraim and the third by Moishe's death. It could be that these other three times involved an action by Hashem where his will was being challenged, whereas here it was a test for Avraham. Avraham thought that publicizing the Bris Milah might alienate the very people he sought to bring close to Hashem. Perhaps it would be better to do the Bris Milah at night or in private. In the end he performed the Bris Milah “B’etzem Hayom Hazeh-On that very day In broad daylight despite what others would say.

   It says you are not allowed to call Avraham Avram after Hashem changed his name. A reason for that could be that if you add the names of Avraham Yitzchok and Yakov it equals 13 letters which equals Echod. (Hashem) If you use Avram without the letter Hey it is taking away from Hashem's name. In addition if you add the names of the Matriarchs it equals 13 as well. Combined they equal 26 the name of Hashem.

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