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Rabbi Michael Laitner

D'var Torah: On the path to Avraham

'And God said to Avram, go out ('lech-lecha') for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, from the house of your father, to the land which I will show you' (Bereishit 12,1)

This, in the opening verse of our Sidra, contains God’s famous command of ‘lech lecha’ to Avraham (then still called Abram – see Bereishit 17,5) when God told Avraham to move to an unspecified new place to start a new life.

Rashi explains in his comments to our verse that the move was for Avraham’s own good and benefit. Only by moving away from the milieu in which he had grown up could he establish himself in his own right, to develop into the great figure that he was later to become. Understandably, this command of ‘lech lecha’ is thus considered to be one of the ten tests undergone by Avraham to show the extent of his faith in and connection with God (based on Mishna Avot 5,4 which is on page 554 in the green siddur).

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the great Rabbinic scholars of the 20th century, queried Rashi’s explanation that Avraham was being tested. Often people have to travel in order to advance or to improve their livelihood. They do so even when there are no guarantees of success.

Rabbi Feinstein noted that Avraham’s move was a real test of faith, to see whether Avraham would doubt God’s word especially since he had no idea about the outcome of his travels. Avraham did not move due to personal motivations, either to leave his milieu or to go to a particular place.

Avraham’s trust in God was such that he obeyed the command without even knowing where he was going or what was liable to transpire, at least in the short term. This trust is perhaps analogous to the Jewish people’s later acceptance of Torah at Mount Sinai, when we proclaimed, ‘we will do and we will listen’ (Shemot 24,7), accepting God’s command before hearing the details.

Avraham’s attitude illustrates why the our Sidra later says of him ‘walk before me and you will be whole’ (Bereishit 17, 1). This walking before God is a reference to Avraham’s faith, through his obedience of God even when he did not know the reasons for and outcome of God’s command.

Avraham's appreciation of God and of his relationship with God was such that he just did what God said. Avraham’s attitude and physical move enabled him to achieve such a lofty spiritual level. Therefore, given Avraham’s character, the move had to be beneficial for him, wherever God would have taken him.

Avraham’s appreciation of God is a significant theme of his life and one for us to emulate. Such emulation may not always be easy, but it is an aspiration for us as Jews to learn from Avraham. Having aspirations helps us to aim higher than we might have done otherwise.

Shabbat Shalom.

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