Published on October 14, 2018
This week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, is of general significance to us because it begins the description of the activities of Abraham, the first Jew.
It begins with G-d’s command to leave his native land, describes his journey through the Land of Israel, the promises G-d made to him and culminates with Abraham’s circumcision.
These events are important to all of Abraham’s descendants not only because of their historical nature, but because we are to learn from them and apply their lessons to our own lives as well.
Abraham’s service of G-d represents the period in time described by our Sages as “the two thousand years of the Torah,” that is, the process by which Abraham prepared the world for the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
But what significance does this hold for us today, more than three thousand years after the Torah was given? Every day a Jew recites a blessing praising G-d as “the Giver of the Torah,” using the present tense to imply that every day the Torah is given to us anew.
We, therefore, emulate our Patriarch Abraham’s deeds, which helped prepare the world in general for the giving of the Torah, in order to spiritually ready ourselves as well. Abraham’s service is therefore always relevant, no matter the era in which a Jew may live.
Furthermore, Abraham’s service to G-d is also relevant to the true purpose of the giving of the Torah, which is the application of the Torah and its mitzvot in the physical world, ultimately in the Land of Israel, although in an extended sense we are obligated to elevate every place in which we live into the “Land of Israel.”
Lech Lecha relates G-d’s promise of the Holy Land to the Jewish people and describes Abraham’s travels through the land, through which he acquired it forever for his descendants. There is particular relevance to G-d’s promise in the present age, the era immediately preceding Moshiach’s coming. G-d promised Abraham the lands of ten nations, including not only the lands of the seven Canaanite nations conquered by the Jews after the exodus from Egypt, but also the lands of the Keini, the Kenizi, and the Kadmoni.
Yet we see that historically, even when the entire Jewish people lived in the Land of Israel, that territory was limited to the land of the Canaanites.
The complete fulfilment of G-d’s promise will only occur after Moshiach’s coming, during the Era of Redemption, when the relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel will reach a full state of completion.
At that time, not only will all Jews of that generation — including the Ten Lost Tribes — dwell in Eretz Yisrael, but also all the Jews of previous generations who will arise in the Resurrection.
Thus, in our present generation, we are still involved in the process of preparing to take possession of Eretz Yisrael, to expand the land so that it includes the territory of the three nations which was promised to us.
The Torah portion of Lech Lecha begins the preparations for the giving of the Torah, and therefore for the Era of Redemption, which will be characterized by the complete state of Torah observance which will prevail when the ultimate expression of G-d’s holy Torah will be revealed.
In the opening lines of this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, G-d commands Abraham to “go out” from his land, from his place of birth to a land which He will show him. What can we learn from this very first commandment to Abraham, that we can apply to our own lives as well?
The first and most fundamental requirement of every Jew is to “go out” — to be in a constant state of ascent, developing and elevating both our inner potential and our surroundings. But the very next thing that happened to Abraham after heeding this command and going to Israel appears to be the exact opposite of development and elevation: “And there arose a famine in the land, and Avram went down into Egypt.” Thus, Abraham had to leave Canaan and journey to Egypt, during which time Sarah was forcefully taken to Pharaoh’s palace.
Although G-d protected her from harm while there, she nevertheless underwent the hardship of the whole incident.
How does this obvious descent fit into the aforementioned theme of ascent and elevation, and our task of climbing ever higher? On a superficial level, Abraham’s and Sarah’s hardship was a step-down, but on a deeper level, it was merely a part of their eventual elevation and triumphant return.
The purpose of the descent was to achieve an even higher ascent than was possible before. When they returned to Canaan they were “very heavy with cattle, with silver, and with gold.”
Just as Abraham’s descent was part of the greater plan of ascent, so it was with the generation of his descendants to follow.
The Jewish people have found themselves thrust into exile after exile, only to return to their Land and achieve even higher spiritual heights than before.
Galut (exile), although appearing to us to be a negative phenomenon, actually carries the potential for the highest good. And now that we are in the last days of the final exile, we approach an era of unprecedented spirituality and goodness, for although the First and Second Temples were eventually destroyed, the Third Temple is to stand forever, and our coming Redemption will have no exile to follow.
We, therefore, draw encouragement from our ancestor Abraham’s descent into Egypt and eventual return to Israel: We must remember that the darkness which seems to prevail in the world is only external, and is part of G-d’s greater plan for the ultimate prevailing of good over evil and the coming of Moshiach.