Parshat Lech Lecha begins with the first words of Hashem to Avraham:
Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.
Since the pasuk is essentially telling Avraham to go to the land Hashem will show him, why does it mention in detail the places he has to leave to get there? What’s important is the destination to which he is going, not the places he is leaving.
More so, as many mepharshim point out, the order of the places he must leave seems to be reversed in the pasuk. First he must leave the house of his father, then his immediate area of birthplace and finally his land.
Another question raised by the mepharshim is how to reconcile this pasuk with the pasuk at the end of parshat Noach:
And Terach took Avram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter in law, the wife of Avram his son, and they went forth with them from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of Cna’an, and they came as far as Haran and settled there“
It is clear that Avraham was already on his way to Eretz Cna’an as a result of Terach’s decision to leave Ur Kasdim, so what is the meaning of the first pasuk in this week’s Parsha where Hashem tells Avraham to go to Eretz Can’an?
The answer to the above questions perhaps lies in a deeper understanding of the meaning of the word “lech” in our pasuk.
The pasuk in Tehilim says: “לכו בנים שמעו לי יראת ה’ אלמדכם” – “Go, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Hashem.” If the father wants to teach the child he should say come my child, not go. Rav Kook explains that in order for one to be able to learn, one must be prepared to go and move forward from where they are standing, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. Without the change in state of mind it is difficult to open one’s self to new and more meaningful conceptions. The constant movement of going forward – “halicha” – enables growth.
Says the Sfat Emet:
לך לך מארצך. כי אדם נקרא מהלך וצריך לעולם לילך ממדריגה למדריגה ולצאת מן ההרגל והטבע ואפילו כשזוכין לאיזה מדריגה בעבודת הבורא ית’ מ”מ גם בזה ההרגל נעשה טבע שני. ולכן צריכין בכל עת לחדש דרכים בעבודת ה’ בנפשו. ואברהם אבינו ע”ה נתנסה עשרה נסיונות ובכל נסיון נעשה כבריה חדשה עד שזכה לצאת מכל הטבע.
For man is called “one who goes” – “mehalech”, and must always go from one level to the next and release one’s self from habit and nature. And even when one merits a new level in avodat Hashem, even so, that new level becomes habit and second nature. Therefore one must always find new paths in their avodat Hashem and in their souls. Avraham was tested through ten tests, and with each test he became a new being until he succeeded to release himself completely from habitualness.
In our Parsha as well, when Hashem says to Avraham לך לך, it is not merely in the geographical – physical sense but rather with reference to the spiritual and emotional sense. Avraham is required, in order to continue on his journey of fulfillment, to remove himself , his whole self, body and soul, firstly from his country and it’s culture, then from those closer to him whose influence is greater, and finally also from his immediate family, the strongest bond of all.
The pesukim in Parshat Noach that describe the exit of Avraham from Ur Kasdim are technical of nature and serve the purpose of giving information regarding the family of Avraham and what became of them as way of introduction to our parsha. It even attributes the departure to Terach because he is the father of the family who leads the physical journey. Parshat Lech Lecha however describes the reason and meaning of those sojournings, and introduces the full incentives and implications of Avraham’s journey.
One of the major themes in Sefer Bereishit is: מעשה אבות סימן לבנים – The actions of the forefathers are signs/omens/templates for the children. Without going into lengthy discussion of the exact meaning of the phrase, it is clear that we are to learn from their actions.
Hashem tells Avraham to go to Eretz Yisrael, but tells him that it is not merely a change of location and scenery; it is a journey of personal transformation and change. In order to succeed he must break away and sever many ties from his past. The Gemara tells us that when Rabbi Zeira came from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael he fasted one hundred fasts in order to forget the Torah of Bavel and prepare himself for the Torah of Eretz Yisrael!
Baruch Hashem, after thousands of years, many of us have merited today to relive the physical journey of Avraham Avinu, leaving the galut behind and meriting coming to Eretz Yisrael. May we merit as well, succeeding in making that journey one of transformation and renewal of ourselves and thereby being part of the rebirth of the whole of Am Yisrael.