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Posted on October 27, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And HASHEM said to Avram, “Go (for or to) yourself from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you … (Breishis 12:1)

For many years I have been learning (and teaching) about those words that launched Avraham Avinu and began the mission of the Jewish People in a particular way. It would seem he is being told, “go to yourself, discover your real power, beyond the outer boundaries and limitations of “your land” and “your birthplace”, and “your father’s house”. What would you accomplish and who would you be if you didn’t know what the world was telling you to become?!

Otherwise, how do we understand the word, “LECHA – to or for yourself”?! Why are his marching orders in the reverse order of land and then birthplace and then father’s house?! It would seem that the journey is inward and not just a mandate to get from point A on the map to point B. He is not even told where he is to go with any specificity, “to the land that I will show you”. Why not tell a person where he is to go? No doubt this was not just a horizontal trip he was to set out on, but rather an inward excursion.

Why then was it necessary for him to travel outwards as well? It could be that the outer struggle of a person is a reflection of the inner struggle. Rebbe Nachman says that all throughout Tehillim when Dovid is speaking about affliction from various enemies he is really speaking of his own inner battles.

In Sefer Shemos, the Torah tells us about a defining moment in Moshe Rabbeinu’s life, “And it happened in those days that Moshe grew up and he went out to his brothers and saw their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, of his brothers. He turned this way and that way and saw that there was no man, so he struck down the Egyptian man and hid him in the sand. (Shemos 2:11-12)

The Shomer Emunim has a fascinating approach on this brief narrative. It was not just that Moshe saw the suffering, and identifying with his Jewish brothers decided to risk everything and smite the Egyptian. Whatever was happening on the outside was also happening on the inside. Moshe grew up on the holy lap of his mother Yocheved and was loaded up with 10 Jewish names and yet he was raised in the capital of Egyptian culture and was being groomed for leadership as an exemplar of Egyptian society.

He not only witnessed an Egyptian hitting a Jewish brother but he felt the Egyptian culture beating him up from within and overwhelming his Jewish identity. He looked this way and that and saw no man. He saw that if he is to be a little bit Egyptian and a little Jewish too, he will not become the Ish – the man he is meant to become, the Ish Moshe, Ish Elochim. So, what did he do? He smote the Mitztri from within and buried him where, in the Chol, as we say at the end of Shabbos, “HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol. He designated his Egyptian trappings, his upbringing, to Chol, secular/profane. It is no longer the essence of his identity.

Whatever was happening outwardly was a manifestation of what was going on inwardly and although it is apparent in this account it opens a window into everything we experience. Avraham Avinu endured 10 tests and not only did he pass them but he was changed by each challenging experience. They each exposed another facet of the diamond of his personally.

It’s not enough to retreat and go inward and it’s equally insufficient to only travel outward. Both are necessary and valuable. The story of anyone’s life is a narrative of events and encounters but there is a whole other internal record of what we are feeling in relation to ourselves and HASHEM and how we are struggling and learning and growing in ways that no one can see. That is what Sefer Tehillim is about. Shmuel Alef and Bais may inform us of the critical events in Dovid’s life, but Tehillim tells us what he was experiencing inwardly. Which is most valuable?

This may help explain why Avram was not told exactly where to go. It was not a geographical location alone. By traveling in both directions simultaneously he would know for sure where – when he eventually arrives.