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Lech Lecha

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

Nowhere Man

"And G-d said to Abraham, 'go out from your land, from your place of birth and the house of your fathers, to the land which I will show you.'" [12:1]

G-d did not describe the land -- he didn't even tell Avraham where he was supposed to go. He merely said "go out" -- leave, further instructions to follow.

Rashi [Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki] says that HaShem did not immediately reveal the location in order to increase Avraham's desire for it, and "to reward him for every word [spoken about it]."

The Modzhitzer Rebbe, Rav S.Y. Taub, asks why there would be further reward "for every word." After all, what greater reward is there, once G-d has spoken directly with Avraham about his move?

To answer this question, we should think about how a person or family normally undertakes a move. When you find out that a neighbor is moving, what's your first question? "Where are you going?" It's obvious! It's the first topic of conversation, and anyone who is moving already knows the answer. They already have a new lease, or a down payment on a new house, and by the time the moving van pulls up, they've probably redone half the interior of their new home as well.

This, of course, was not true many centuries ago. One did not first go find a home before moving, when journeys of several hundred miles were not simple day trips. But even so -- actually, even more so -- a person moved with a clear reason for leaving, a carefully selected destination, and a reason for going there.

Avraham's journey was different. HaShem told him "go out from your land," and did not reveal the destination to him.

When people saw Avraham packing, everyone asked: "where are you going? Why? What do you intend to do there?"

Avraham had no response. He had no answer! He himself didn't know why he was leaving, didn't know where he was going, and didn't know why he was going there. And he had to admit as much to them.

If someone responded "I don't know" to these questions, would you accept that answer? The Rebbe assures us that Avraham's contemporaries didn't accept it either. "Can it be that a person heads off on a long journey, and doesn't know his destination, and doesn't even know why he is traveling?"

So Avraham was forced to provide more detail, to explain to them that he was Commanded by HaShem: "go out!" And he believed with complete faith that he would find a new place to settle, wherever G-d told him.

The fact that Avraham did not know his destination caused him additional discomfort, and forced him to speak with other people about his travels -- far more than would otherwise have been necessary. Says the Rebbe: of course he should have been rewarded, for every word!

The more visible one is as a Jew, the more likely one is to be asked questions by others: what is this? Some readers who built Sukkos in their back yards this year were undoubtedly asked, "what are you doing? Why are you doing this?"

Such questions can be embarrassing. People don't want to look different or act strange. It's called peer pressure -- we're supposed to conform, we're supposed to behave like our friends and colleagues. So however well-meaning the questioner, we can be embarrassed to answer someone's curiosity.

Why do we endure it? The answer is, of course, because we're willing to observe G-d's Commandment and build a Sukkah. If so -- of course we should be rewarded, for every word!

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Yaakov Menken

Text Copyright © 2003

The author is the Director of Project Genesis -




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