Parshat Lech Lecha

Parshat Lech Lecha begins with Hashem telling Avraham to, “Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” However, several passukim earlier, the Torah states, “Terah took his son Abram and Lot… and he departed with them from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of Canaan. They arrived at Haran and settled there.” Why did Hashem, in parshat Lech Lecha, command Avraham to leave his birthplace, Ur Kasdim, if he had already left?

Rashi explains that Hashem’s commandment was that Avraham should travel even further from his father’s house in Haran. However, the Ibn Ezra suggests that, as the Torah has no chronological order, Hashem’s commandment to Avraham preceded Terah’s emigration to Haran. Thus, the Parsha should actually begin three passukim later.

The Ramban is perturbed by the Ibn Ezra’s explanation. If Hashem in fact commanded Avraham to leave Ur Kasdim, why does the passuk state, “Terah took his son Abram”? The passuk implies that Terah, not Avraham, was the impetus to the departure from Ur Kasdim. It would be more accurate to give Avraham full credit for leaving Ur Kasdim. Perhaps, the passuk should have directly stated that “Abram took Terah his father.” As such, the Ramban rejects the Ibn Ezra’s understanding of the passukim.

On an ostensible level, it is difficult to comprehend why Terah wanted to leave Ur Kasdim for two main reasons. Firstly, an aggadaic text cites that Terah was a prominent citizen in Ur Kasdim and was a member of the royal council. Secondly, his society was highly developed and technologically advanced. Haran, on the other hand, was a primitive and agriculturally undeveloped society. Why would Terah want to leave his luxurious lifestyle to live in Haran, a less developed community?

Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik suggested an answer that also serves as a defense for the Ibn Ezra’s understanding of the passukim. The Rav suggests that, during his life, Terah repented for his idol manufacturing, as he acknowledged and accepted Abraham’s ideas and his divine truth. As an act of teshuva, he wanted to restart his life elsewhere, enabling him to seamlessly serve G-D alongside Avraham. Terah’s transformation coincided with G-D commanding Avraham to leave Ur Kasdim. Thus, when Avraham was ready to leave, the Torah records that Terah’s bags were also packed. The passuk therefore wanted to focus on Terah’s spiritual transformation, even though Hashem had only commanded Avraham to depart from Ur Kasdim.

Nevertheless, according to the Ibn Ezra, the first three pessukim in parshat Lech Lecha are placed after passuk 31 in the previous perek. Thus, the pessukim still maintain a larger emphasis on Avraham. These pessukim explain the blessings Hashem promises Avraham if he departs from his father’s house. Rashi explains that Avraham will remain physically intimate with Sarah during his travels, will maintain a large income and reputation, the letter hey will be added to his name, and his name will conclude the first bracha in the Shemoneh Esrei.

In his sefer Drash Moshe, Rav Moshe Feinstein explains why Hashem gave Avraham many blessings. Although Avraham was not given a reason to leave his homeland, he did so instantaneously without doubting Hashem’s plans- he merely listened to Hashem and firmly believed that whatever G-d instructed him to do was for his best intrest. The Rambam writes that in order to fulfill one’s obligation of prayer, he/she must at least have kavanah during the first bracha of Shemoneh Esrei (Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Tefilah, 10:1). Although the basic level of achieving Kavanah is translating the Hebrew into English, one can have more profound kavanah by thinking about the deeper meaning of the words. For example, when saying, “the shield of Avraham,” one should remember that the essence of mitzvot should be unquestioned and preformed full heartedly, as Avraham executed them.

Rav Yisroel Belsky has another interpretation of Magen Avraham. He explains that when the prophet Yeshayahu says, “Hearken to me pursuers of righteousness, seekers of Hashem… look to to Avraham your forefather,” (Yeshaya 51:1-2), he means that we should strive to emulate Avraham’s midot. Thus, the Magen Avraham means that just like Avraham, we should increase Godliness in the world and act kindly, such as warmly inviting others into our homes. This concept is found in Perkei Avos. The mishna states that, “The world exists for three things: for Torah, for serving G-d, and for acts of kindness.”

Rav Belsky asks, although one davins to emulate Avraham’s characteristics, how can one practically achieve this high, spiritual level? In an extensive essay, he answers that Avraham became an “ish Eloki” by striving to emulate Hashem, namely by living his life according to the attributes that describes Hashem in the Torah. Furthermore, by realizing that Hashem, not humans, is running the world, Avraham saw G-d in all aspects of his life. By emulating to achieve Avraham’s uncanny ability to reflect G-D’s holiness, one can reach divine levels of spirituality in his/her thoughts, actions, and personality, thus achieving his/her potential.

Student Studing in KBY