Beit Midrash

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

Lech Lecha


Rabbi Berel Wein

10 Cheshvan 5769
As one who has made major changes of locations in one’s lifetime, I can immediately identify with the opinion of the rabbis of the Talmud and Midrash that the movement of Avraham and Sarah from their home in Mesopotamia to the Land of Israel was one of the ten great challenges in the life of Avraham. Leaving one’s home, family, and society is always a wrenching experience. The Torah’s description of marriage is the description of leaving one’s parents and home to become united with someone "other" to build a new life and family unit. Avraham is searching for communication and instructions from his Creator. He evidently cannot find this in Mesopotamia though the Lord, so to speak, is to be found everywhere and nowhere, depending upon the seeker and the search. Only in the Land of Israel will Avraham find the spiritual satisfaction and role of influence and leadership that will make him the father of all peoples. Just as his name will later be changed from Avram to Avraham to signify this, so too his journey from Mesopotamia to the Land of Israel will mark a transformation of level and character in his lifetime. Avram in Mesopotamia is not the same person as Avraham in the Land of Israel. Change of location changes all of us in myriads of ways. It will bring Avraham to greater heights of spirituality and tenacity of leadership. From being the persecuted victim of Nimrod in Mesopotamia he will now in the Land of Israel become the respected prince of God in the midst of a Canaanite and Hittite civilization. In spite of the difficulties of change he will find the move to be most beneficial for him.

The Jewish people, over our long millennia of dispersion over the face of this earth, have always attempted to remain a positive and spiritually strong community. But every emigration from one location to another one took a toll from us. The early immigrant generation almost always suffered dislocation, nostalgia and oftentimes confusion and difficulty of adjustment to the new society and its challenges. In our times, the immigration of Jews to America and later to the Land of Israel posed and still poses the greatest challenge to successful and meaningful Jewish life. In both cases there was first a headlong flight from Jewishness and tradition in order to become American or Israeli. The past few decades have noticed a slow but steady change in this attitude. More and more Jews both in America and Israel now wish to incorporate true Jewishness into their lives and values. The truth be said in my opinion, America and Israel currently provide a new opportunity for a stronger more vibrant and value-driven Judaism than did Eastern Europe in its waning decades of the twentieth century. There are currently great opportunities to convert Avram into Avraham, to expand our religious and spiritual horizons and to build a truly strong and holy society in the land of Israel and even in America as well. The challenge is there for us. May we be worthy of surmounting it successfully.
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