When G-d commanded Avram - his name had not yet been changed to Avraham -
to go to the Land of Canaan, he was told to "Go for yourself, from your
land, from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I
will show you." (Beraishis/Genesis 12:1) Rashi explains that Avram was to
go for his own good and his own benefit, that he would not merit to have
children outside of the promised land, and that it was only in the promised
land that his reputation and renown for righteousness would become
publicized. Nevertheless, Avram's reality was that he had no idea where his
destination was; he had no foresight as to what land he would be shown.
Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg, 1762-1839, acknowledged
leader of Hungarian Jewry of the time) expounds that Avram believed that he
was destined for an unclaimed land. Avram was forty-eight years old at the
time of the Dispersion following the destruction of the Tower of Babel (see
11:8-9). Now, a mere twenty-seven years later, there were still many lands
that were uninhabited; Avram assumed he was destined for one of them. But
to his surprise, when "Avram passed into the land as far as the site of
Shechem, until the Plain of Moreh, the Canaanites were still in the land.
And G-d appeared to Avram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this
land,' so he built an altar there to G-d Who appeared to him." (Ibid
12:6-7) He had the challenge of leaving his father's home for an unknown
destination, and when he reached that destination, he discovered he was but
a visitor; his descendants would not take true possession of the land for
another 465 years. And what was his reaction? An expression of
thanksgiving, an offering to G-d. No second thoughts.
How was he able to react this way? "So Avram went as G-d had spoken to him
and Lot (his nephew and brother-in-law) went with him; Avram was seventy
five years old when he left Haran." (Ibid v.4) When Avram did leave his
father's home, as much as G-d had encouraged him with great benefits to
come in his new homeland, he went, explains Rabbi Sofer, because G-d had
told him to go. It did not matter that he was already of advanced age and
its affects were already manifest, and it did not matter what he found when
he got there; G-d told him to go so he went.
This challenge was but one of the ten great challenges the Avraham faced in
his lifetime, a series that culminated with the Akeidas Yitzchak (Binding
of Isaac; see chapter 22). Avraham did not simply meet these challenges
because he was "Avraham". He became "Avraham" because he met the
challenges. No second thoughts.
Life is filled with challenges, some small, some great. An Olympic track
and field athlete understands that his coach will continue to raise the bar
- not because the coach hates him and not because the coach wants to see
him fail. The coach wants him to grow stronger and more powerful and knows
that this will only happen if the level of challenge increases. When
challenges and stumbling blocks are placed in life's path, we have our
great-grandfather Avraham to look up to and emulate. G-d is the ultimate
"trainer" for He only gives us challenges we can meet. Let us meet them,
let us be thankful for them, and let us grow.