Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Lech Lecha
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Cheshvan 9 5777
"And Hashem said to Avraham: ‘Leave your land, birthplace & home…and go to the Land that I will show you."

More than one commentator has pondered over why G-d chose to use the rather oblique phrase, "the Land that I will show you,"
rather than telling Avraham directly that He was commanding him to go to Israel. Some pundits chuckle that Hashem did not want to scare Avraham by telling him that he was headed to Israel, preferring that he first get there & only then find out that he had made Aliya!

But I have a very different take on it: I suggest that it was davka because Israel is such a rich, beautiful & inspiring place that G-d withheld the fact that this was his ultimate destination! For you see, had Avraham known that he was headed to the Holy Land – which, due to his prophetic vision, he knew would be the ideal place for Jews to live – he might have gone there for THAT reason, rather than out of sheer
obedience to the Divine command. And Heaven more greatly rewards those who act purely in consonance with G-d’s will, rather than those who act of their own volition.

This is why the dictate to depart Charan for Israel is considered the first of Avraham’s 10 Tests, even though he had other terrifying ordeals prior to Lech-Lecha. He had to live underground for 13 years to escape the wrath of King Nimrod, & he was later thrown into a fiery furnace,
both of which occurred because of his determination to educate the public about the uselessness & fallacy of idolatry.

But those first two trials were a result of Avraham’s own convictions, his own rational realization that this world is presided over by One, comprehensive power and not many individual forces. And while Avraham's beliefs & acts were noteworthy & true, they came via his own conclusions & lacked the "signature" of the Almighty. And so they did not "make the cut;" they did not qualify as part of the immortal Ten Tests.

As the Gemara states: "Greater is the one who is commanded & acts, rather than one who acts without being commanded." True faith is tested, & strengthened, when we react instantly & instinctively to Hashem’s voice.

On the day that we arrived in Israel, we received some very solid advice from friends who had themselves made Aliya some years before us. "Israel is the most marvelous place on Earth," they told us, "but it also has the severest challenges. At times you will love this place, at other times you may fear, or even resent it. But always remember: You are here because you are doing a Mitzva; that is the bottom line, and that is the lifeline to hold on to at all times."

Good friends, great advice.
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