Friday, October 08, 2010

Rabbi Yissocher Frand

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 698, Did the Avos Keep the Torah? Good Shabbos
Lech-Lecha #1 or Lech-Lecha #2 – Which is the harder test?

The Medrash Rabbah on this week's Parsha states in the name of Rav Levi: There are two times that "Lech Lecha" is written in the Torah and we do not know which is G-d's favorite – the first or the second. The first "Lech Lecha" is obviously the first pasuk of our parsha [Bereshis 12:1]: "Go out from your land, from your birth place, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you." The second "Lech Lecha" is in connection with Akeidas Yitzchok [the Binding of Yitzchak], where Avraham is told "Go out to the Land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you." [Bereshis 22:2] Rav Levi concludes that Akeidas Yitzchok was a greater test than the test of Avram leaving his homeland and thus the second instance of "Lech Lecha" is "more precious to G-d".

It is actually strange that Rav Levi was even puzzled by this question. Why would anyone think that the test of leaving one's homeland (particularly in the conte xt of the great reward that HaShem promised to Avram if he complied with this commandment) might be comparable to the test of the Akeida? The Akeida would be most difficult for any parent – particularly such a person as Avraham, who was the paradigm of Chessed [kindness] and who had preached monotheism and the virtues of a Merciful G-d all these years to his many disciples.

A Nesivos Shalom (by the Slonimer Rebbe) at the beginning of the parsha addresses this issue. Certainly, the Akeida was a very difficult nisayon [test], but it was a "one shot affair". Avraham was called upon to ascend the mountain, sacrifice Yitzchak, and then the nisayon would be over. However, the nisayon of Lech Lecha in our parsha is a test of beginning a journey that will affect him and will last the rest of his life.

Everyone has his own personal odyssey in life. We are all charged with the task of bringing completeness (shleimus) to our souls. We have to achieve correction (tikun) of our neshma [soul] in our own personal fashion. That is the charge of Lech LECHA (go in YOUR OWN way). This charge involves a lifetime of work. Many times, this charge requires getting out of the box that is one's environment, one's society, and one's family. We never enter life with a clean slate. We all enter life with baggage – emotional baggage, financial baggage, genetic baggage, family baggage. Sometimes the "baggage" is very good and extremely helpful. Other times the baggage can be a real handicap. The type of people that we are and the characteristics (middos) that we have are primarily not our own choosing.

When a person is given a mission in life and a goal to accomplish, it may involve the need to rid himself of so much of the baggage that he came with (one's land, one's birthplace, one's family). Such a challenge is not a one shot deal. Rather, it accompanies us day in and day out. Such a constant – lifelong – challenge may indeed be cumulatively a greate r test than a test requiring only a momentary rise to the occasion, as difficult as that challenge may be.