Lech Licha: A Timeless Journey

Parshas Lech Licha.  Avraham Avinu, Sarah Imainu.  Journeys, Wanderings, Trials, Tribulations, Visions, Prophecies, Battles and Peace Treaties, Bris Milah and Blessings.  Lech Licha – the beginnings of the Jewish nation and Jewish destiny. 

The ancient call that sparked a nation: And Hashem said to Avraham, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ – go for yourself, from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you; and I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… And Avraham went, as Hashem had spoken to him, וְאַבְרָם, בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, בְּצֵאתוֹ, מֵחָרָן, and Avraham was 75 years old when he left Charan (Bereishis 12:1-4).

לֶךְ-לְךָ – the beginning and end of Jewish destiny: go forth for yourself!  Wander from your home, from the land of exile, from foreign soil, to the land that I will show you.  The land is not specified in the first command.  Journey, Avraham, until you feel the stirring of the soul and the innate holiness that emanates from the land.  Then you will know that you have reached the land. 

R’ S. R. Hirsch writes (Bereishis 12:1), “How could we have survived, how could we continue to survive, had we not inherited from Avraham Avinu the courage to be a minority

“‘Up-to-date Judaism!’  The strongest protest against such a notion conveyed by the first command given to Avraham: לֶךְ-לְךָ!  Was Avraham’s first stand in keeping with the spirit of his times – in the midst of Chaldea, Babylonia, Assyria, Phoenicia and ancient Egypt?  In those lands the doctrine of the day was the worship of power and sensuality.  The Asians worshipped pleasure, while the ancient Egyptians deified power and stifled personal freedom.  Except for a few faint traces, the G-d-idea had almost vanished – until Avraham arose and appeared in the world!  And when everyone else in the world was seeking to integrate, to establish himself and win the rights of a citizen, Avraham gave up his homeland and his rights of citizenship; of his own free will he became an outsider and openly denied the gods worshipped by all the nations! 

“Such conduct demands courage and firm belief in the truth of one’s inner convictions and one’s awareness of G-d; it demands Jewish awareness, Jewish ‘stubbornness.’  This was the first trial thrust upon Avraham Avinu.”

Rashi teaches of Hashem’s promises to Avraham, which would come to fruition only in the Promised Land: וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל – And I will make you into a great nation: Avraham was promised that he would father offspring in the new land. וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ – And I will bless you: Hashem promised to bless him with wealth. וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ – And I will make your name great: he would achieve prominence and recognition (Rashi to 12:2).

It happened one time that a certain Jew came to R’ Avraham Yitzchak Ha’Kohen Kook with a question.  “Honored Rav,” said the man in a weak and hesitant voice, “I have come to ask an important question.  For 25 years now, I have been working arduously from morning till night, engaging in all types of manual labor.  I have removed weeds from fields destined to become orchards; I have planted trees; I have even removed stones from rocky soil and dug holes to help construct homes in Eretz Yisrael.  I have invested the best of my strength, yet I barely make enough money to support my family.  My question is: Am I permitted to emigrate to America and try my luck there?”

R’ Kook looked at the man for a few moments, and suddenly, he rose from his chair, pointed to it, and said to the man, “Sit here!”  The man hesitated. “Sit!” ordered R’ Kook.  Slowly and hesitantly, the man sat in R’ Kook’s chair.  He promptly fell asleep…

When he awoke a short while later, R’ Kook asked him what happened.  “I had a dream,” said the man.  “I departed this world and ascended heavenward.  I was directed to the Heavenly Court.  There, before the One Who Dwells on High, stood the scales of justice.  All of a sudden, horse-driven wagons began passing before me, loaded with packages of all sizes.  Angels began unloading these packages and placing them on one of the scales, which buckled under the weight of the heavy load. 

“‘What are these packages?’ I asked the angel standing over me.  ‘These, son of man, are the sins you committed during your days on earth.  Here, everything is brought to justice.’  I was dismayed.  Suddenly, another array of wagons began to arrive, loaded with heaps of dirt, stones, rocks and sand.  The angels loaded all of these materials onto the other scale, which began to descend, almost outweighing the scale of sins. 

“‘What are these bundles of dirt?’ I asked the angel.  ‘These are the rocks and stones that your hands toiled to remove from the soil of the Holy Land.  They will stand by you and plead on your behalf, on account of your share in building the Land.’  Trembling, I stood and watched the scales.  And behold!  The scale of merit got heavier and heavier, slowly but surely descending, as it elevated the scale of guilt.  Just then, the scale of merit stopped moving, with just a little more to overtake the scale of guilt.”

“You see, my son,” said R’ Kook, gently, “You have received the answer to your question from the heavens” (An Angel Among Men, p.350-352). 

And Hashem said to Avraham: Lift your eyes and see, from the place where you are, north, south, east and west, כִּי אֶת-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה רֹאֶה, לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה, וּלְזַרְעֲךָ, עַד-עוֹלָם – for all the land that you see I will give to you and your progeny forever (Bereishis 13:14-15).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,

Michal

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