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(5744) Why there is no mention in the Torah concerning the Avodah of Avraham Avinu before the time of "Lech Lecha"; The source of the difference between Am Yisroel and the nations of the world.



1. On the verse (Gen 12:1):

“And the L-rd said to Avram: Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house. . And I will make you into a great nation (and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing).            

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה' אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ:

                וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַֽאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַֽאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶֽהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה:

Ramban states:

“This portion of Scripture is not completely elucidated. What reason was there that the Holy One blessed be He, should say (to Avraham), ‘abandon your land and I will do good to you in a completely unprecedented measure’, without first stating that Avraham worshipped G-d, or that he was a servant of G-d or that he was a perfect Tzaddik etc. . . The custom of Scripture is to state: “Walk before Me, and hearken to My voice and I will do good unto you “as is the case with David and Shlomo, as well as throughout the Torah, (as it states) “If you walk in My statute; and it shall come to pass”(and) “If you shall hearken diligently unto the voice of the Eternal, your G-d”. And in the case of Yitzchak, it says: “For My servant Avraham’s sake”. But there is no reason for G-d to promise (Avraham a reward merely) for leaving the country.”

And he explains the reason since:

“The people of Ur Casdim did him much evil on account of his belief in the Holy One, blessed be He” and “he fled from them to go to the land of Canaan, tarrying for a time at Charan. Whereupon G-d told him to leave these places as well and to fulfill his original intention that his worship be dedicated to Him alone and that he call upon people (for the worship of) the Name of G-d in the Chosen land. There He would make his name great and these nations would bless themselves by him”, “not as they treated him in Ur Casdim where they abused and cursed him, put him in the pit or in the fiery furnace.”

And Ramban continues:

“The Torah however did not want to deal at length with the opinions of idol worshippers and explain the matter between him and the Chaldeans in the subject of faith, just as it dealt briefly with the matter of the generation of Enosh and their thesis concerning the idol worship which they instituted”.

It remains, however, not straightforward:

Why does the Torah not mention, at least concisely, that “Avraham served G-d or that he was a perfect Tzaddik” as a preface to “And the L-rd said to Avram etc.”?

For we find so by Noach that before G-d’s speaking to Noach (in the beginning of Parshat Noach) that Scripture prefaces (in the beginning of the Sidra) that “Noach was a Tzaddik etc.” and even before this (at the end of Parshat Bereshit) that “Noach found favor in G-d’s eyes”.

How much more so should this have been with regard to Avraham where the Midrashim of the Sages elaborate, at length, regarding his great virtue and righteousness and his service to G-d, with Mesirat Nefesh, even when he was in Ur Casdim and Charan. For this was a preface and reason for G-d’s telling him “Go from your land etc.”. Yet nevertheless, this is not mentioned in the Written Torah, at all. Even not that Avraham was singled out from all the other members of his family! At the end of Parshat Noach, it just mentions Avraham, as being one of Terach’s family.

2. One could say that the explanation of this is:

The beginning of the Jewish people started from Avraham Avinu, who was the first Yid, as it states, “Avraham was one”. Concerning Avraham himself, his uniqueness from among the other people of the land of his birth and even from the household of his father - began with “And the L-rd said to Avram: Go from your land” – namely away from them all, as it states in the beginning of our Parsha.

With this, namely the Torah's beginning the story of the attachment of Avraham Avinu with “And the L-rd said to Avram etc” -

(Even though, much earlier, “Avraham recognized his Creator” and was drawn to G-d. and he publicized ‘to all the world, that there is One G-d in the entire world, and the He is deserving of worship”. So much so, that he had self-sacrifice while he was in Ur Casdim) -

the Torah emphasizes the essence of Avraham (of Yidden, of each Yid).

Regarding all the other nations, their closeness and connection to the Creator of the world, is connected with their knowledge and recognition of G-d. Through this, they connect themselves with G-d and fulfill His Mitzvot.

However, regarding the Jewish people their primary closeness to G-d, and their existence as being Yidden is expressed

(Not because they, in and of themselves, were elevated to have a recognition of the Creator of the world and to connect themselves with Him, but rather)

in G-d’s singling them out. As it states in the words of the Sages that “Now, the Omnipresent brought us close to worship Him”, and that “the Omnipresent has drawn us close to Him, separated us from the gentiles, and drawn us near to His Oneness”.

Since this originated from G-d, it is understood that Bnei Yisroel are not just a different category in creation (albeit, similar to other creations) which became closer to G-d, more than other people – but that they are a completely different essence (אנדער מהות).

For all created beings are and remain a created being (מציאות נברא). Whereas Yidden are, in their essence, an aspect of G-dliness in the Creation.

(For not only is the soul of a Yid a “veritable portion of G-d from Above” even while it is here below, but also regarding the body of a Yid it states: “You chose us out of all nations and tongues“ . This means that G-d chose the Yidden (including) their bodies).

Similarly, this is the difference between the Mitzvot given to Bnei Noach versus the Mitzvot that were given to Bnei Yisroel. This is not just a difference in quantity (seven or six hundred and thirteen) but it is a difference in quality and essence.

The Mitzvot of Bnei Noach comprise (primarily) the habitation of the world (ישוב העולם), the refining of the person. This means that the human species should conduct themselves properly, and that the world be a proper place. And the refinement (אויסגעאיידלקייט) and completeness of the world (and the human species) results through the Bnei Noach fulfilling their Mitzvot.

(Therefore, the Mitzvot of Bnei Noach are aspects that one is able to fulfill even with “intellectual conviction” (הכרע הדעת).

Whereas the aspect of the Mitzvot of Yidden are (not just the refinement of the person and the world, but mainly) – “attachment and connection” (צוותא וחיבור) with the Creator. This is the essence of a Mitzvah. And since this is an aspect of attachment and connection with the Creator, where created being and the Creator are completely incomparable (באין ערוך לגמרי), it is understood that just as the being of a created being (נברא) has no significance with regard to the Creator, so too his Avodah has no significance to Him. The way that the attachment is accomplished is, (not through the refinement and elevation of the person, through his knowledge and recognition of G-dliness, or whatever (וועלכע־עס־איז) feeling and lofty Avodah of a person is, but rather) through that which G-d chose and instructed him. This means through G-d’s command and its fulfillment.

This is emphasized by Torah, immediately by the first Yid – Avraham Avinu. His uniqueness (as a Yid) and his quality begins (in the Torah – the deeds of the Patriarchs) not with his unique qualities – in his drawing near to G-d through his Avodah and individual strength (which he possessed even beforehand). But rather, with “And the L-rd said to Avram: Go from your land etc” meaning with G-d singling him out. His connection and attachment with G-d (as it states in Torah) was accomplished through his being commanded by G-d and his fulfilling of the command.

3. Torah is from the word instruction (הוראה). This is the underlying intent of Torah. Namely that each aspect in Torah relates not just as an instruction, in a person’s realm of study and knowledge, but that they are an instruction for each and every Yid, in all generations - in actual conduct.

This is especially so regarding the Patriarchs, for the “the deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign for their descendants”. And as the Ramban explains at length, that the reason why the Torah elaborates in the “story of the travels etc. and other occurrences” of the Patriarchs is in order that one learn from it and know how the descendants should conduct themselves.

According to this, it is understood in our case:

The Torah’s telling us that the (main) attachment and connection of Avraham with G-d begins with G-d’s command “Go from your land etc.”, is not just for the sake of knowledge regarding the essence of a Yid and the aspect of Mitzvot of Yidden. Rather this is a practical lesson in the foundation and beginning of the Jewish people’s closeness to G-d.

4. There can be a supposition that in order for a Yid to begin fulfilling his Mitzvot and drawing near to G-d, that he must, at the very onset, study Judaism – namely the laws and Mitzvot of the Torah. And especially learn about G-d, His connection to the world in general, and to Yidden, in particular. To know the essence of the subject of Mitzvot, in general, and of each particular Mitzvah etc.

This means that one could think that before one fulfills Mitzvot, one must have the proper introduction and preparation in the knowledge of the aspects, in their entirety (לבורין). Only after this can one begin to fulfil G-d’s Mitzvot properly, as befits and is proper regarding the fulfilling of G-d’s Mitzvot.

Therefore, even when one encounters a Yid who until now did not have any connection to Judaism. Not just with regard to actual performance of Mitzvot, but also with regard to those who do have a knowledge of Judaism - The sole thing that he knows is that he is a Yid.

In this case, one could think that, at the very onset, one must begin by preparing him to Judaism and teaching him the aspects which will, in the end, after time, give him a knowledge regarding G-d and Torah and Mitzvot. Until he possesses a feeling (געפיל) for Torah and Mitzvot – and then he will fulfill Torah and Mitzvot as a Yid must fulfill them.

It is indeed true, that even before one understands, one must not refrain from fulfilling the actual commandment. For there must be the prefacing of “we will do” before “we will hear” (נעשה לנשמע). Therefore, he will see that this conduct should also be within another Yid. However, he feels that this is still, not the true manner of fulfilling Mitzvot. It is just that since he is not yet at the level of understanding and contemplation (הבנה והשגה), that one must not wait until he will attain this. However, the primary fulfilling of the Mitzvah will come after knowledge and recognition, as aforementioned.

To this comes the lesson in our Parsha of Avraham– “And the L-rd said to Avram: Go from your land etc.”. We do not yet know the qualities of Avraham. The foundation and beginning of his drawing near to G-d is “And the L-rd said to Avram: Go from your land etc.”, namely to do (צו טאן), carrying out, in actuality G-d’s command.

Not only is this the first thing in time (אין זמן), but this is also the main aspect in Avodat HaShem, in general. For how is a Yid attached and unified with G-d? By performing and obeying the command of the Creator.

This means that the foundation of the Avodah of a Yid is simple faith and the acceptance of G-d’s yoke – doing and actually obeying G-d’s command.

5. Just as this is with Yidden, in general, so too is it with regard to each Yid, in his individual Avodah:

When a Yid, who keeps Torah and Mitzvot, has a knowledge in the revealed aspect of Torah, and in Pnimiyut HaTorah, and has a recognition in the Creator of the world, so much so that he possesses love and fear (of G-d) – then when he is about to fulfill one of G-d’s Mitzvot, he must know that the beginning of the Avodah and its main core and root is to discern (דערהערן) that he is going to fulfill a command of G-d. This is like the text of the blessing of all Mitzvot: “who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us“. And it is in a manner that “if we were commanded to chop wood” we would do so with the same self-sacrifice.

This begins with feeling that one's relation to G-d manifests itself in performing the Mitzvot, in actuality.

Other lofty aspects and his Avodah are all just in the boundaries of a created being.

Only by performing G-d’s Mitzvot, does a Yid become “absorbed in the Divine light and Will, and merges with it in perfect unity“ (נכלל באור ה׳ ורצונו ומיוחד בו ביחוד גמור).

6. According to this, it fits that this aspect (namely that the true attachment of a Yid with G-d, is accomplished through G-d’s command and through that which the Yid fulfills the command) was stated in G-d’s instruction “Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house”.

This is the essence of the aspect of “Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house”, as is explained in many places:

  • “Go from your land” – means “go away” (גיי אוועק) from your desires (“Eretz/land” is the same root as the word “desire”) (״ארץ״ ל׳ רצון)
  • “from your birthplace” – means from your habits (געוואוינהייטן) (and Middot)
  • “from your father’s house” – means from your intellect (מוחין) (“Avodah/father” is kabalistically related to intellect/wisdom) (אב, חכמה)

For although, for a Yid who conducts himself properly, all these desires and powers are immersed in holiness and G-dliness (like the example and approximation as it was by Avraham Avinu even before his going out). Nevertheless, the way to unite with G-d is specifically through going out of one's being (מציאות)  (his desires, Middot and intellect) – even from his being, from the perspective of holiness.

And where must be the result of the “Go (from your land)” –“to the land that I will show you“. This means carrying out the (land) desire which G-d shows.

According to this, one can also answer the question of Ramban (as aforementioned, Par. 1) namely, what reason was there for G-d to promise such a reward merely for fulfilling G-d’s command - leaving his country?

The answer is that through fulfilling (the command), the true aspect of the Mitzvot, the essence of fulfilling G-d’s command is the purpose and brings the completeness of the reward.

Since the primary completeness of a Mitzvah (from the word attachment and connection/ צוותא וחיבור ) is expressed in the fulfilling of a Mitzvah, because G-d commanded it (not because of a person’s feeling, as aforementioned), therefore, G-d also gives goodness and reward, as it states “there was none like him in the world”. A reward which is outside of the boundary of the world.

7. One could say that this aspect is also alluded to in the topic of the reward, the blessings:

It is not just in that which the blessings emphasize that everything comes from G-d, as it states “And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great “ (not in the past/future tense “Nifal“) “And you will be a great nation”) but also in that which the essence of the blessings is the aspect of greatness – “ a great nation“, “I will make you great“.

The true aspect of greatness is only by G-d. By created beings, of their own accord, there is no true greatness. And the greatness which is in creation (“And I will make you into a great nation . . and I will make your name great“) comes through attachment to the Creator.

Similarly, this is with the other wordings of the blessing that convey that Avraham becomes one with G-d. That is why it states “and you will be a blessing“. This is as Rashi explains that:

“The blessings are entrusted into your hand. Until now, they were in My hand; (I blessed Adam and Noach). From now on, you may bless whomever you wish”.

So much so that it is “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse“. Namely that a blessing to Avraham automatically brings a blessing (from G-d) to the one who is making the blessing. Similarly, it is with the opposite.

And through this Avodah, in the aforementioned manner: “Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house” within every person in his individual Avodah, it becomes fulfilled the going “to the land that I will show you“, plainly. This means that G-d brings Yidden into Eretz Yisroel, and one finds greatness there and the “completeness of the land” (שלימות הארץ). So much so that (G-d will) “expand your boundary“ – including the lands of “the Kenites, the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites“.

And one could also say that G-d also gave them to Avraham, in the Covenant Between the Parts (ברית בין הבתרים). Since the same covenant was over all the ten lands.

With the true and complete Geulah through our righteous Moshiach, speedily and in our days, mamosh.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Lech, and Acharon Shel Pesach, 5741

Shabbat Parshat Noach 5743


Gutnick Chumash pp. 47



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