Monday, October 30, 2006

Understanding Lech Lecha

(Pictures courtesy of

Excerpt from Trust Me! by Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff:

Imagine that one day you get a direct, unequivocal command from Hashem: "Go!"

Since He is the Creator of the universe, you really don't have much choice, so you obligingly reply, "Ok, but where to?" The Almighty answers, "Just go. When you reach your destination, you'll know." It's very unsettling to go without knowing where you're headed for - but once again, it's not really in your hands.

So you pack your suitcase and bid your family farewell. "Where are you going" they ask you. "I have no idea, but I'll know when I get there." If this feels strange to you - who received a direct command from Hashem - you know how insane you must appear to others!

Yet still you go. You take a taxi to the airport and go to the first desk you see. "I'd like to buy a ticket for the next plane out please." "Yes, where would you like to go?" "I don't know. Just get me a ticket on the next flight." "Oh, I see," answers the agent, giving you a strange look. She peruses the schedule and put you on the next flight going out, going to... Well, what's the difference as long as you go. That's what you were told to do, right?

Finally you arrive at your destination, and collect your baggage. You walk out of the terminal and begin to consider your next step. Suddenly a car pulls up, and a bearded man with a yarmulke perched on his head peers out at you from the window. "Hey, Reb Yid! What are you doing here? Where are you going? "Well to tell you the truth, I don't know. I'm just going. "What are you talking about? You have nowhere to go? Get in the car, you'll come home with me."

Does this sound like a nice story line? Well, that's "lech lecha". To go, and not know where you're going. But in reality, the Almighty is always with you, guiding your every step, even though you may not always be aware of this.


At October 30, 2006 at 12:59:00 PM EST, Anonymous ich veis nisht said...

I happened to think it wasn't exactly like this by Avraham Avinu a'h. Avraham Avinu was by then a very highly spiritual man and a mystic! Revelation of Hashem and changing nature through kabala was a common thing by him and by many others in his generation! They had much more direct contact with the upper realms than we do (we hardly even know it exists, but by them it was a much more common experience!) So when Avraham Avinu a'h got his command from Hashem he was much more "comfortable" and used to such a revelation than we would immagine. It was a challenge of course, but it wasn't like a guy waking up one morning and hearing some voice in his head and thinking it must be G-d, such a person needs a psychiotrist! That's why we don't get such direct messages from above, we've lost touch with the "above"... Hashem help us!

At October 30, 2006 at 1:14:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I'm a little confused by the post. Aside from being quite different in many many ways from the Lech Lecha in Chumash - a shvache mashul, as they say - what was the message? is the author seriously proposing that we do this?

At October 30, 2006 at 1:45:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: I don't think we are to take this mashul literally. I think the underlying message is to illustrate in modern context the level of emuna that Avraham Avinu had.

At October 30, 2006 at 3:20:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Do you not think that it's kind of forced illustration?

Personally, I understand Lech Lecha more like this: Imagine a man who has a close relationship with G-d for many decades – he was tested and rose to the occasion on many occasions – G-d even publicly saved him from certain death (according to most opinions). He has devoted his life to teaching belief in G-d.

He’s no youngster, and suddenly G-d tells him:

Ok, change in plans; it’s time to go. Don’t ask where – it will be fine, and this way less people will want to come with you.

The man says, it’s all about You, G-d. I’m ready willing and able to go… and he does. He packs up and heads out of town.

"Where are you going" they ask. "Wherever G-d wants,” he answers.

He has been telling people about G-d forever, I don’t know if they were all that shocked now. The time had come for change, and for change to happen he needs to make a physical change as well… he needs to change location, cultures, food, water, mazal, everything. In this case change is good, and so he goes – but he doesn’t go for any reason beside one: He really believes. G-d is real and live, the reasons don’t matter, only G-d’s will matters.

You see, that’s who Avrohom is. But I think we often misunderstand what was uniqe about the first Jew. What makes Avrohom so special anyway?

G-d was a not new concept, and this very same G-d wasn’t M.I.A. - There was this huge mabul not all that long ago, and the great dispersion was during Avrohom’s life. Noach, Shem & Ever were busy teaching about G-d & Torah for hundreds of years – and I imagine that they had many students as well. So what was the groundbreaking discovery or significant element that made Avrohom so special? The difference was what is called “Daas.”

Avrohom took his religion seriously – unlike ever before. When he considered the sun as G-d, he served it with devotion – but at night it left him empty and alone. How could he go on without G-d? The same problem with the moon, or any other possible G-d that he crossed off his list. Others were unable to understand his problem: “So? Pray to multiple gods” they said. They had no problem: so what if each god wasn’t all powerful? But Avrohm did. He was looking for the real thing and he meant it – he couldn’t be satisfied unless he could experience G-d on the level of daas – he had to know him, have a relationship with him and devote himself to him.

The word daas (commonly translated as knowledge) reflects true knowing. For example, the verse uses the term daas to connote intimacy, as in “Adam knew Chava.” Avrohom took belief in G-d to a new level; to him it was far more real, it was the level of daas. So can we compare this to R’ Parkoff’s example? Can we relate to Avrohom’s “Lech Lecha?”
I dunno, but in my opinion we do a diservice by using a moshul like that...

At October 30, 2006 at 4:07:00 PM EST, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...

The mashul sounds like one of those famous Novhardiker "tests" that the baalei mussar used to put themselves through in order to develop thir midas ha'bitochon or to improve their midos, etc. Surely Avraham Avinu was a shining example to us of emunah u'bitochon.

To respond to CE, though, another great midah of AA was his kiruv efforts. I'm not so sure that Shem v'Ever lacked the midas ha'da'as that you zero in on (which certainly AA also possessed to a high degree). Yet Shem v'Ever, as great as they were, had their quiet little yeshivah, while AA went out of his way to bring people back to Hashem, even ovdei avodah zora (whom we, too, might be required to work with if not for the spiritual risks involved).

So I would submit that this was the outstanding trait of the first of the Avos: "l'man da'as KOL 'AMEI HA'ARETZ ki Hashem hu ha-Elokim, ein ode!"

At October 30, 2006 at 4:26:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Or I would say "l'man DA'AS kol amei haaretz..."

At October 31, 2006 at 3:00:00 PM EST, Blogger muse said...

So many times I feel myself a tool in G-d's hands.


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