Friday, October 26, 2012

Parshat Lech Lecha - פרשת לך לך

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּHashem said to Avram: 'Go for yourself, from your land, from your birthplace and from your father's house to the land that I will show you.'(בראשית יב:א) There are two parts of this Pasuk that I would like to deal with. The part that immediately interests us is the list of places that Hashem commands Avram to leave - Avram's land, his birthplace and his father's house. After that, Avram we read of the oddly vague "place that I will show you." There is one obvious question to be asked on the first part of this pasuk. It is posed in the Kli Yakar's commentary: when one lists where one hails from, one normally starts with the most local place and then mentions increasingly bigger areas. For example, I was born in Hendon, which is in London, which in turn is in England. Here however, the list order is reversed. One possible reason for this could be that when moving away from a certain place, a person notices things that he used to take for granted. Personally I have noticed many cases of American and English expatriates assuming an exaggerated persona. I believe that the reason for this is as much to do with being homesick and attempting to compensate for the inability to actually be immersed in the old country's culture as it is to play the culture card on local people. By this I mean that I will often exaggerate my Londoner accent for Israeli and American friends as it is both a talking point, and also reminds people where I come from and what kind of behaviour and customs to expect from me. It also serves to confirm to myself that I am different from Israelis and that although I have moved abroad, I am not a native. To misquote Sting, "I'm an Englishman in Jerusalem!" Coming back to the point, the word ארץ in Hebrew means land, but it also has another connotation. The word may be read as "א-רץ," meaning "I will run." The concept of the ground in Hebrew is the place you are heading to to, what your goal is. By way of comparison, Egypt is called מצרים, which derives from the word צר, meaning thin. Eretz Yisrael, a very thin strip of land geographically, is called "Eretz tova U'rechava - A good and wide land." How can that be? The answer is simple enough; that Egypt was a spiritually stifling place for the Jews to live in, whereas in Eretz Yisrael, our potential is significantly "wider" and expanded. It is only natural that a man once removed from his natural surroundings will pine for them and attempt to re-enact them in his mind. For this reason, Hashem first told Avram to leave behind the land he came from. He wasn't telling him to literally leave the land first, that would be impossible! What was meant was for Avram to leave that mentality behind, to abandon it completely. Only after he had left behind this mentality could he truly leave his home and his father's house without feeling the need to come back.But where shall he go to? We have grasped the fact that Avram had to leave behind all that he used to know, but where was he to head to? The Pasuk simply says the place "אשר אראך - that I will show you." How can Avram go somewhere without knowing where it is that he is to be heading?To answer this, we may look at the beginning of the Pasuk. The first two words Hashem said, "לך לך," may be translated as "Go for yourself," but it can also be rendered "Go to yourself." Or, alternatively, "Go (to) 50." 50 is known as one of the many numbers of Kedusha. The concept here is not that Avram was being instructed to merely head for a different place on the map, rather that he was being commanded by Hashem to go to his limit, to reach the highest spiritual level he possibly could. Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!

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