Lech Licha II

Rabbi Israel Chait

Transcribed by a student

Genesis 11:31,32 records that Terach took Abraham, Lot and Sarah and moved from Ur Casdim towards the land of Canaan. They ultimately settled in Charan where Terach lived until 205 years old. He died thereafter in Charan. Rashi tells us that Abraham was actually commanded by God to leave 60 years prior to Terach’s death. However, the Torah does not want to publicize the fact that Abraham left his father when he was an old man, lest he be suspected of disregarding the commandment of honoring his father. This concern is evident because the Torah never portrayed Terach’s real identity as an idol worshipper. However, this contributed to the fact that God commanded Abraham while his father was still alive, to "leave your land, your birthplace and your father’s house and go to the land that I (God) will show you."

Rashi on 12:1 asks a very simplistic but insightful question. God is telling Abraham to leave his birthplace. This is puzzling because his birthplace was Ur Casdim, from where Abraham had already left. He had previously departed to Canaan with his father and settled in Charan. Rashi answers that God informed Abraham that he should depart further from Charan and leave his fathers home. Furthermore, God tells Abraham to move to a land that "I will show you". Rashi comments that God did not show him the land immediately in order to make the land more beloved in his eyes. Additionally, God’s command to leave is verbose and seems redundant: "Leave your land, birthplace and your father’s house”. Are all these terms necessary to describe the same place? Rashi explains that God wanted to reward him for each and every word that God uttered with respect to his departure from Charan.

Upon closer scrutiny, Rashi’s explanations raise several questions: Why didn’t God simply state “leave Charan” and not as Rashi equates it, as a further departure from Ur Casdim? We must also attempt to understand in what manner does God’s concealing the identity of the land make it more appealing. Additionally, what is Rashi’s intent in stating that God wanted Abraham to be rewarded for each word uttered? What is the correlation between the numerous elements commanded to Abraham, and the reward and the ethical perfection of Abraham? 

Abraham was raised in Terach’s home, an idolatrous household. Despite this influences, Abraham recognized God as the source of reality. This attests the strength of Abraham’s intellectual conviction. He elevated himself to a higher level of perfection. However, even Abraham was subject to the influences of his father’s home. A human being has a certain underlying base, which throughout his life gives him a strong sense of security. This base usually stems from ones childhood. Throughout one’s life it provides a sense of comfort and well being which allows the individual to become a functioning member of society. 

If one were to analyze man’s need for this sense of security it originates from the same emotion responsible for mans desire for idolatry. Human nature demands certain assurances in order to protect and shield man from his insecurities. The Pagans sought the protection of many gods, to shield them from all impending disasters of the outside world: real or imagined.

God, by instructing Abraham to leave Ur Casdim, was teaching Abraham an important concept essential for Abraham’s quest for moral perfection. Ur Casdim represented to Abraham his base of security. He originally departed Ur Casdim for Canaan, but he stayed in Charan. Charan was not their ultimate destination. Politically he had to depart from Ur Casdim, but Charan was close enough in proximity to offer the security of Ur Casdim, to which Abraham had a strong emotional attachment. It was his home base and gave him psychological security. Abraham had difficulty in abandoning the security of Ur Casdim. Therefore Rashi explains, God commanded him to leave his "birthplace", although he was already in Charan. Charan represented an extension of Ur Casdim. Charan afforded Abraham the same security as Ur Casdim. Therefore Rashi explains that he should depart further from Ur Casdim. A person’s home affords a person a strong sense of psychological security. A home is not just a physical phenomenon but also a psychological phenomenon. The All Mighty was telling Abraham to leave behind this security. 

Rashi explains that God told Abraham to leave his “Artzicha”, hometown, “Moladit’cha”, his birthplace and “Bais Avicha”, his father’s home in order to give him reward on each aspect of his removal. Each one of these ideas gives a person unique psychological comfort, which the perfected individual must abandon. 

“Artzicha”, his land, represents a certain familiarity with a place, which affords one the security an alien land cannot afford. 

“Moladit’cha”, his birthplace, one’s childhood hometown nourishes a certain, special nostalgic feeling in a person, which comforts him throughout his life. 

“Bais Avicha”, his father’s household. An individual’s parents provide him with a strong sense of security. This security emanates from childhood, whereby the parent provided for and took care of all the child’s needs. 

God was telling Abraham to abandon all the psychological and emotional security that he derived from these phenomena. A wise man abandons all his psychological insecurities and takes comfort only in reality. The Creator of the world, God, is his security. Therefore Rashi is teaching us that God told Abraham; leave behind the emotional security of your childhood, your land, your birthplace and your father’s home. 

“Throw your bundles to God and His will be your portion”. A chacham, (wise person) only seeks security in a system of ideas and concepts, with Hashem, God, at the source of this system. His security is the halachic system which gives him comfort and guides him though life. His security is solely placed in the fact that he is living a life that is in line with the ultimate reality. Attaining this sense of security demands an abandonment of the psychological and emotional securities that most individuals require. It is an extremely painful and difficult task, but it is essential for a chacham in order to reach true perfection. This perfection demands that Hashem is his sole source of security. 

These insights can also explain why God did not choose to show Abraham the land immediately. If God were to have shown Abraham the land at the time of his departure from Charan, he would have merely attached his need for security to the new land. He would substitute the security furnished by his hometown with the security of his newly promised land. Thus, God did not show him the land yet, as Rashi explains, in order that it should be cherished in his eyes. The love Abraham was ultimately going to have for the land would be based upon the halachic system and his relationship with Hashem as the source of that system. The love was not the love that an ordinary man displays for his homeland, which usually represents emotional security. It was a qualitatively different type of love, whereby Abraham would find his need for security fulfilled in his relationship with God. Therefore, God did not tell Abraham where he was going because the mind would naturally look for a substitute source of security. Only by Abraham’s aspiring to this higher level of perfection, would he find God as his source of security. His ultimate love for the land would thus, be based upon its special role in the halachic (Torah) system. It could not be based on an emotional sense of chauvinism. Only after reaching this level of perfection could God bless Abraham and make him into a great nation, a “goy gadol.” This blessing would therefore not be perceived by Abraham as a means to find security in his posterity, but rather as the ideal for establishing Am Yisroel, the Jewish people.