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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

from Si’ach Shaul, pg. 23

Move on … to Preserve Your Level

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One of the tests that Avraham underwent was the command to move on to a new place. Included in the test is the idea that being on the road and ending up in a new place can be difficult. As Rashi (Bereishit 12:2) tells us, being on the road decreases three things: one’s notoriety, his wealth, and his ability to have children.

Part of the test was not only the willingness to leave his place but the effort to maintain equilibrium while doing so. When a person is in his own familiar place, he has a certain standing in the society, and he feels a natural tendency to try to preserve his stature and reputation. Often, for that reason, a person will hold himself back from doing something that could affect his status.

Avraham was well known where he came from, with a special place in society where he commanded a lot of respect, especially after the miracle of being saved from the furnace. That is when Hashem presented him with the command to move. Hashem was concerned that Avraham’s actions might not be just for the pure intentions that he had worked on, but it could become, increasingly as time went on, a matter of rote or to preserve that which had been accomplished previously. That possibility of complacency could be a spiritual danger for one who wanted to maintain the genuine high level that Avraham did. That is why he had to go to a place where he had no reputation and was in fact unknown – to start from the beginning.

The idea behind this type of test is hinted at in the command to be involved in Torah study (as found in the context of the mitzva of Kri’at Shema) as the Torah said to "speak about them as you go on the path" (Devarim 6:7). One is not to take his mind off Torah even when he is on the move and has places where he must go. A person may want to get on the road quickly before it gets too hot or accomplish everything he needs to while he still can. One might think that he could miss Kri’at Shema and prayer that day so he can accomplish that which is necessary. The Torah tells us that this is not true, and, in fact, the one who taught this concept was Avraham, as Chazal tell us that it was he who instituted Shacharit (the morning prayer) (Berachot 26b).

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