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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Noach

Parashat Noach

What Motivates?

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The penultimate verse of Parashat Noach informs us that Terach took his family from Ur and journeyed towards the Land of Canaan: And Terach took Avram his son and Lot, the son of Charan, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Avram s wife, and they departed with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go to the Land of Canaan, and they came to Charan and dwelled there (Bereishit 11:31).

Alshikh notes that the structure of this verse is problematic. At first glance, neither the information that Terach had left from Ur nor that his destination was the Land of Canaan seems relevant. The verse should simply have stated that "they reached Charan and dwelled there". To Alshikh's comment we can add our own fascination with the fact that Avram's father chose as his destination the land to which God would later guide Avram.

Alshikh explains that our verse comes to stress the difference between Terach's journey and that of his son. Terach's motivation was to escape Ur, rather than to reach Canaan. The verse teaches us that in order to merit reaching and staying in Israel, one must journey to it for its own sake. Because Terach had an external motive, he did not reach Canaan; rather, he ended up staying in Charan. Avram, on the other hand, set out for the Land of Canaan "through love of the land" [Alshikh's words], and therefore merited reaching the Land, as the verse in next week's Parasha states: And they departed to go into the Land of Canaan and they came into the Land of Canaan (Bereishit 12:5). A Jew must be able to appreciate the Land of Israel for its intrinsic value, not for any tangible reason.
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