Parshat Lech Lecha
The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
Midrash Tanchuma, Lech Lecha 3
The Holy One, blessed be He, did not mention any specific place. This indicates that this was a trial within a trial, as in the case of a man who embarks upon a journey without being aware of the destination.
The parasha begins with a trial. Commenting on this trial and on similar trials throughout Genesis, our sages say, “The experiences of the patriarchs prefigure the history of their descendants” (Tanchuma, Lekh Lekha 9; Nachmanides). Because of this, it is important for us to understand what a trial is and what it means to withstand a trial. … Abraham … is our exemplar; we attempt to emulate his conduct, following his path in the process of building our character.
…Abraham is required to sever — albeit gradually and progressively — all of the ties between him and other people, between him and things that he is connected and close to.
…he must leave his home and family, and separate from his friends and relatives and from everything with which he is familiar. … Abraham must detach himself from all the components of his life and personality.
It is very difficult to accept the idea that one must proceed without a destination. … to go without a destination, to “a land that I will show you,” means to go without the anticipation of arriving at a certain place.
This trial is a personal dilemma faced not only by Abraham. It exists in many spheres …
During you life, have you had similar trials — the challenge to move onward, without a clear destination?
“I am El Shaddai. Walk in My ways [alternate trans: Walk before me] and be blameless.”
…when God says to Abraham, “Walk before Me,” in effect He is saying: “Clear your own path: find your own way. You have no assurances.”
“Walk before Me” is a life problem. There is an aspect of Abraham in each one of us, and each one of us faces the same situation that Abraham faced. Sometimes, one stands to lose everything for the sake of walking on God’s path. … Naturally, one prefers that everything have some quantifiable end, at which one could state that he has become a little more holy. But God promises nothing of the sort; He just wants us to start walking …
The command to “go forth” is not only an instruction, but a description of how a person should go forward in life. We learn from Abraham that this is the way one must proceed …
Rabbi Yehudah Leib, Alter of Ger, Sefer Emet
Now surely each person was created for a particular purpose. There must be something that we are to set right. … By properly mending our deeds, we can come to hear more and more. The hasid serves God in order to become attached to the root of the mitzvah, ever seeking to hear new things. … “Get you from your land, your birthplace, and your father’s house.” In this way we attain a new enlightenment …
Whoever stands still is not renewed.
Do you agree? If so, in what ways do you need to move onward?
Rabbi Leib retells the following parable:
Midrash Rabbah Bereishit 39:1
Hashem said to Abram, “Go you forth from your land…” Rabbi Yitzchak said: this may be compared to a man who was traveling from place to place when he saw a castle in flames. He said, “Is it possible that this castle lacks a person to look after it?” The owner of the building looked out and said, ” I am the owner of the castle.” Similarly, because Abraham our father said, “Is it possible that this castle has no guide, no one to look after it?,” the Holy Blessed One looked out and said to him, “I am the Master of the Universe.” … Hence, God said to Avraham, Lech Lecha.
For the Alter of Ger, the meaning of the parable is that we must give up our attachments to things of the world. By doing so, we become more strongly connected to God. We must “forget and remember.” Rabbi Isaiah Horovitz sees the parable as a response to the apparent meaninglessness and suffering in the world (“the castle is burning”). Abraham sees the world as meaningless and God announces Himself and says Lech Lecha. But how is Lech Lecha a response to that experience of alienation?