07 Nov 2019 Lech Licha: Go To Yourself
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Lech Licha, we begin the age old journey with our first father and mother, Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imainu, once again.
And Hashem said to Avram, 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; וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה, 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 for a blessing (Bereishis 12:1-2)… And Avram was seventy-five when he left Charan, along with Lot his nephew and Sarai his wife, and all their possessions, and the souls they made in Charan, and they came to the land of Canaan (ibid, 4-5). And Hashem appeared to him and he said, לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, to your seed I will give this land, and Avram built an altar to the G-d that appeared to him (v.7).
And so begins the journey of a lifetime and the birth, and journey, of our nation.
Many explanations are given to the double lashon (language) of the first command to Avram to “go for yourself – לֶךְ-לְךָ.” Would it not have been sufficient for G-d to command him to go, לֶךְ? Why לֶךְ-לְךָ?
R’ Yitzchok Zilberstein writes, “Lech Licha: go for yourself, for the essence of your soul. A person is not asked to do more than he is capable of doing. No more than that is demanded of him. Naturally, we are required to invest the utmost effort in order to attain maximum achievement – but only those achievements that fall within the range of our abilities and strengths.
“Koheles (9:10) teaches: כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תִּמְצָא יָדְךָ, לַעֲשׂוֹת בְּכֹחֲךָ עֲשֵׂה, Whatever you are able to do with your might, do it. Hashem does not ask us to do things that lie beyond our ability. But what we are able to do – we should (and must) do.
“Said the saintly tzadik, R’ Zusha of Anipoli (1718-1800): If they tell me in the World of Truth, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you like the Baal Shem Tov (d.1760, Ukraine)?’ I will not be afraid at all! How can I be compared to the Baal Shem Tov!? Did I have his talents and abilities, or his siyata d’Shmaya (assistance from Heaven)? However, when they ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?’ now that is something of which I am terribly afraid!
“…Here we have a clear and fundamental principle: Hashem requires of a person only that which he has the capacity to accomplish…
“This powerful principle can serve as a beacon of light for every Jew who does not believe in his own strength. It is something to bear in mind… If a person is capable of learning the entire Shas one hundred times over the course of his life, and learns it only ninety-nine times, he will be held accountable for that hundredth time. On the other hand, if a person is capable of learning only one tractate, or one perek, or even a single page of Gemara throughout the one hundred and twenty years of his life, and he makes every effort to actualize this potential – he will be welcomed into the next world as a complete tzadik!
“…What he is asked to do is use his time! Only that! A person is not asked to do more than he has the ability to do” (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, Bereishis, p.164-165).
Lech Licha – go to yourself, go for yourself, go forth and find yourself. Every Jew, from the moment Avraham Avinu was commanded to go forth, must do the best he can, and no more. But he must ensure that he strives to always do his best.
When R’ Boruch Perton was fifteen years old, he attended the NCSY Goes to Yeshiva program. His family was assimilated and his siblings had intermarried, but NCSY reached out and brought him to spend summer on the Ner Yisrael (Baltimore) Campus. He loved the yeshiva environment and asked his advisor if he could stay on for school year.
The menahel, R’ Yosef Tender zt’l, agreed to meet Boruch. R’ Perton recalls the experience:
I was brought in for my farher, and Rebbi (R’ Tendler) interviewed me. “What Gemara do you know?” he began. “What’s Gemara?” I replied. “Okay, what Mishnah do you know?” “What’s Mishnah?” I asked. “What Chumash do you know?” “What’s Chumash?”
By now, Rebbi figured out that I had no idea what he was talking about, so he asked, “Okay, Boruch, what do you know?” I responded that I knew how to sing Adon Olam. He encouraged me to sing it, and listened with a smile throughout the song. As I finished, he commented on how nicely I had sung, and I offered to sing Yigdal. Rebbi told me that I had done well, there there was no need to sing any more songs, and that I was accepted to the Mechina.
I was his talmid for over thirty years (I Am Your Servant, Artscroll, p.126-127).
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l once said: “People do many things in life for which they later have charatah (regret). A person may start a business or some other venture and then the day might come when he regrets ever having undertaken it. He may enter a partnership that later turns sour and he will regret the day he agreed to it. That is how life is.
“But there is one thing that no one ever regrets. I guarantee you that no one who learns a blatt Gemara, a perek Mishnayos or a pasuk in Chumash ever wakes up the next day and tells himself, ‘I am so sorry I did that.’ Never.”
We all have our capabilities and our abilities. No two of us are the same, or can accomplish the same in our lives. We are not, however, commanded to be like each other. Rather, we are commanded to be the best that we can be, as individuals, as ovdei Hashem, with the lives that we have been given.
Lech Licha – The command to Avraham, the command to us all.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,