Friday, October 30, 2009

Parshat Lech Lecha - פרשת לך לך

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ
Now the Lord said unto Avram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee.
(בראשית יב:א)

This week's Parsha is named for the famous command that Hashem gave to Avram (as he was known before his name was changed to Avraham): "Lech lecha; Go for yourself - from your country, from your birthright, from your father's house."

There's a tremendous amount in these words that Rabbis over the centuries have seen fit to comment on, but I'd like to pick up on something that I first heard from Rav Daniel Katz of Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem, and that I heard again from Rav Mordechai Machlis of Ma'alot Dafna this week. The words "Lech l'cha," meaning "go for yourself" when translated literally, seem a bit extraneous - of course Avram was going for himself; when he left, he was fulfilling the word of God because he wanted to.

We may resolve this diffiuclty by translating the word "Lecha" in another way. We can say that it means "to yourself." The command meant that Avram had to go within himself and come to realise who he truly was -he had to be true to himself. This command, according to the Rambam, the first of Avram's ten tests from Hashem, was literally to leave his father's house and head abroad where he would gain a different perspective.

I would like to add something to this way of looking at things. Following the Rambam's view, (that this was indeed the first of Avram's tests,) we can say that it was the foundation upon which all the others were built. The other tests included extremely challenging situations such as the being thrown in a furnace, his wife being abducted, circumcising himself at the age of 90 and culminating in the horrific test of being asked to sacrifice his only son. These tests were highly demanding and required true devotion to Hashem, especially in the case of the last test. But above all the tests was the first test of Lech lecha - that Avram had to remain true to himself.

I'd like to suggest that at any given time, Avram was not just being tested on one front, for Hashem was also checking to see whether Avram was behaving in a manner that was true to himself. When he was asked to give himself a Brit Milah at a very advanced age for example, in order to pass the test he couldn't merely tick all the boxes; his actions could not be construed as contrived. He had to genuinely want to do that which was asked of him.

From the holy city of Netanya, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!

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