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Passion, Courage, Selfless Drive

Thursday, 7 November, 2019 - 7:26 pm

Dear Friend,
I would like to share with you a profound Torah thought in this week’s Parsha, reprinted fromthe Kehot Chumash, featuring an interpolated translation and commentary;Based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, OBM; Adapted by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky; Produced and copyright by Chabad House Publications.

"Go, To You"

It would not be an exaggeration to state that the two words that open this Parashah and lend it its name— Lech Lecha, “Go, to you" —are some of the most powerful words ever spoken in history. With these words, G-d set Abraham on the course that would reverse the process of degeneration that humanity had been locked into ever since the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, a course that would eventually lead it to the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

There were, as we know, a number of righteous individuals who preceded Abraham, but none of them had been successful—and some of them not even interested—in stemming the tide of estrangement from G-d that had overtaken the earth. At best, they preserved the old traditions within their sequestered hideouts, sheltered from a world antagonistic to Divinity and safe from its corruptive influences. But these righteous individuals either lacked the courage, creativity, or fearlessness necessary to resist and oppose this corruption and to try to heal the rift between heaven and earth.

Abraham, in contrast, was not fazed by the rampant corruption around him; on the contrary, it was precisely the world's depravity that inspired him to become an activist. As we saw at the end of the preceding parashah, Abraham circulated among his contemporaries, pointing out the illogic of their way of life and encouraging them to join his monotheistic revival.

Still, despite his impressive accomplishments, Abraham's efforts were limited by the fact that he was speaking only from his personal convictions and out of the force of his own reasoning. To the people whom he addressed, he merely represented a more intellectually honest and morally virtuous version of themselves. True, he and his contemporaries had witnessed G-d's miraculous intervention in life when he was rescued from Nimrod's furnace, so both he and they had been exposed to the existence of a transcendent G-d not bound by the limits of nature or human reason. But Abraham had not yet reached the next stage—the awareness that this transcendent G-d can be encountered within mundane life as well. The prevailing notion was that G-d was immanent, assuming the guise of nature, and transcendent, occasionally defying nature; but human intellect could not conceive of the possibility that the transcendent G-d could also be found immanently within nature and everyday life. Therefore, monotheism in that era was hardly more than deism—the acknowledgment that G-d had created the world and had set the mechanism of nature in motion.

All this changed when G-d spoke His first words—" Lech Lecha"—to Abraham. Firstly, the very fact that G-d openly responded to a human being's efforts to dedicate his life to truth changed the rules forever. G-d demonstrated that He is indeed accessible to those who sincerely seek Him. (True, G-d had spoken to Noah, but He did so solely on His own initiative; Noah did not actively seek out G-d, nor did he actively try to promulgate monotheism, as we have seen.)

Secondly, with these words, G-d transformed Abraham into His emissary. Abraham was no longer acting merely as an inspired visionary; he could now speak with an authority beyond himself, making the conviction of his message incomparably more effective than it had previously been. It was thus only through his efforts after G-d spoke to him that the Divine Presence began its true descent back to earth.

Finally, and most importantly, by telling him to "go," G-d made Abraham into a new person who could now progress beyond his own abilities. "Go, to you" means "Go to your true, higher self, the self you could never reach on your own." The definition of a G-dly person was no longer "a person who connects to G-d as far as the limits of human capacity allow"; its definition had now become "a person who connects to    G-d by infinitely progressing beyond the limits of human capacity."

In this context, G-d in parashat Lech Lecha takes the dynamic initiated in parashat Noach to its next level. In parashat Noach, we saw how G-d introduced the notion of teshuvahto the world, the possibility to correct wrongdoing and remake our lives even after committing what would otherwise appear to be fatal mistakes. Now, in parashat Lech Lecha, G-d not only makes it possible for us to return to our original selves, He even makes it possible for us to "return" to our authentic, fundamental selves, the selves we never even knew existed, constantly uncovering new and infinitely higher vistas of our innate Divine personality and connection with G-d.

Why Abraham?
(See RamBam Hilchot Avodat Kochavim V’Chukkoteihem – Chapter 1) 

What has always intrigued me when learning the above RamBam, which discusses the state of the world when Father Abraham was born, and how he came, and only he, to recognize G-d and to relentlessly seek to persuade his generation to come to recognize G-d. What was it in Father Abraham’s spiritual DNA, so to speak, that propelled him on this mission?

In other words: What are the characteristics in each of us, in our DNA, necessary to develop, so that we should have this passionate, courageous, selfless drive? Against the whole world?

(Moshe Rabbenu had a revelation from G-d. Abraham came to it on his own.)

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Rabbi Levitin

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