Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Lech Lecha
Rabbi Jablinowitz

In this week’s parsha we begin to read of the life of Avraham Avinu.Chazal teach us in the Mishnah in Avos (5, 4), Asarah Nisyonos Nisnasah Avraham Avinu V’Amad B’Kulam. Avraham Avinu was tested ten times and was successful in all of them. What was the point in testing Avraham Avinu ten times and what did he accomplish in withstanding the trials and tribulations placed before him?

Our parsha begins with the test of Lech Lecha, which Rabbi Ovadiah M’Bartenurah on the Mishnah above teaches was his second test, the first one being when Avraham was thrown into the fiery furnace by Nimrod. The Sfas Emes teaches that the words Lech Lecha used in the command stress the concept that life needs to be a process of “Halichah”, of walking. There must be constant growth and movement forward in one’s life. The notion of routine and repetition is antithetical to the ideal life of a Jew.

When Avraham Avinu experiences the covenant with Gd known as Bris Bein HaBesarim, the Torah states (Chapter 15, Pasuk 17), Vayehi HaShemesh Ba’ah, And the sun set. The Meshech Chachmah teaches that this is the first time in the Torah that the word Shemesh is used. Previously the sun was referred to as the “Ma’or HaGadol”, the great light. The reason for this change is because this is the first time the sun is used in the context of Avraham Avinu. And Avraham was the one who realized that it was foolish to worship the sun. The sun rose every day in the east and set every day in the west.  It was inconceivable that the sun had any creative powers of its own. Its daily routine and constant nature indicated that it was created in order to serve Hashem, who is referred to as Mechadesh B’Tuvo B’Chol Yom Tamid Ma’aseh Bereishis. Hence the sun was called Shemesh which means to serve.

By constantly following the mitzvoth of the Torah we are emulating Hashem in constantly moving forward in our Avodas Hashem. Keeping the mitzvoth keeps us fresh and creative, and not merely acting out of habit and routine. This is expressed in the first mitzvah of the Torah of Kiddush HaChodesh. Following the lunar calendar indicates the idea of rejuvenation every month like the moon itself. And sanctifying the new moon every month represents the notion of creativity in establishing the dates of the festivals according to when the new month begins.

The Sfas Emes explains that the tests given to Avraham Avinu were in order to insure that he would grow and move forward in his Avodas Hashem. But one test wasn’t enough. After passing the first test and moving forward to a higher level, then that new level eventually becomes routine for him. His new attainment has now become second nature for him. And being in a situation of habit and routine is counter to what Avraham Avinu was meant to accomplish. In order to emulate the Divine trait of constant creativity, he needed to continually be tested in order to move forward and climb the ladder of Avodas Hashem.

The pasuk in Koheles states (Chapter 7, 19), HaChacmah Ta’oz Lechacham M’Asarah Shalitim. Wisdom is stronger for the wise person than ten rulers. Avraham Avinu was tested ten times in order to escape the rule of habit and routine. Ultimately he reached a connection with Hashem so strong that he was beyond the routine and nature of the physical world. Avraham Avinu was the Chacham who emulated the creative powers of Hashem and this is the model for all of us to follow as well.

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