Lech Lecha - Relationships Strengthen Faith

This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.

Elisheva Maline

Taken from Tzedek-Tzedek
In this week's Parshat Lech Lecha, we are introduced to one of Jewish history's most famous figures, the forerunner of our forefathers, Avraham Avinu. In this week's parshah, Avraham's shows unwavering faith in Hashem and in the process he ingrains in us, his descendants, the ability to follow G-d's word without question.
Hashem says to Avram (his name was Avram before Hashem changed it to Avraham), "לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ" - "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house to the land that I (G-d) will show you" (Genesis 12:1). 'I will show you' means that Avram didn't know where he was going initially. While that might inspire a thrill for the open road and the possibility of adventure, it is safe to assume that for most, 'go forth into the vast unknown' would spark a little uncertainty. 

Avram could've shown hesitation over following the word of G-d on several fronts: he was leaving behind the place of his childhood and his family (after all, people didn't generally travel far in Mesopotamian times). He had reason to ask how, in his nomadic wanderings, he would manage to secure a stable future for himself, his wife and kids. Yet nowhere in Hashem's directive do we see Avram pointing out disclaimers. He throws his belongings into some bags, packs the camels and heads out of Or Kasdim. What's more, he doesn't leave alone: his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot and all the people whom Avram and Sarai had inspired to follow their lifestyle and way of thinking, leave with him. So it's clear that by the strength of his values alone, Avram had already created a following advocating for monotheism. He was a man with a vision and people were drawn to it.     

One of the things that makes the above example of Avraham's unshakable faith relatable is shown later on in Lech Lecha. This event occurs after Avram's first arrival in Cana'an (modern day Israel). In chapter fifteen, the word of Hashem comes to Avram, "...I am the L-rd Who brought you forth from Or Kasdim to give you this land (Cana'an), to inherit it" (Genesis 15:7). What makes this exchange interesting is that it doesn't follow the same pattern as all his previous and future interactions with Hashem. Avram replies, "Oh L-rd, G-d, how will I know that I will inherit it?" (Genesis 15:8)  That's weird. What's going on here?

In Rabbi Schwab on Prayer, the author touches upon the following idea. He says that the Talmud mentions (Berachos 7b) the first person to use the name Adonoi when referring to Hashem was Avraham (Genesis 15:8). Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, "From the day the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the world, there was no one who called The holy One Blessed is He "L-rd (Adonoi)." The significance is that Avraham understood the nature of the word adon - master. A master has a personal relationship with his servants. Whenever a servant serves his master, the contact, however the difference in status, is a direct one. If the master asks for a bowl of fruit, the servant hands it to him. If the master wishes for a breeze, the servant fans his face etc. 

A king, on the other hand, has a very general relationship with his subjects and/or servants. He's got a nation to run and kingdoms to conquer; rare is the man who gets close to him. This latter view on G-d is one the descendants of Noach shared. And because of their perceived distance from Hashem, polytheism began to germinate and spread society. That is, until Avraham came along and showed the world that no, everyone has a personal, direct relationship with G-d. He knows us! He is our master. This is why we say in our daily blessings Baruch Atah Hashem (Adonoi), Blessed Are You Hashem (Adonoi) before we say Melech Haolam, King of the Universe. First and foremost, we relate to G-d on a personal level.  

Avraham's ability to recognize that Hashem has a personal relationship with each and every one of His creations, and his deduction that Hashem is good and wants only good for us, gave our forefather the strength to follow Hashem's word without a shadow of doubt. After all, he reasoned, if Hashem knows me inside out, and He knows what's good for me, He will only bring good to me, his creation

So why did he question Hashem when he was told he would inherit The Land (Israel)? 

In the oral Tradition, Avraham is referred to as a mountain; he understood the heights he'd climbed and the summit upon which he stood. However, he wasn't blind to the natural difficulty of relating to a higher, infinite force which people cannot see, hear, or touch. Therefore, he asked, "How will I know that they (my descendants) will merit holding onto the land?" What if they, like the descendants of Noach, become distant from Hashem and fall into sin? 

In this regard, too, Hashem reassured Avraham. 

However, we might still be left with a question. What would it take for each of us to experience G-d on a more concrete level? What would it take for us to then serve Him consistently and without wavering? Reb Mendle from Kotsk had one suggestion; he asked his students, "Where is G-d?" They replied, "Everywhere." The Rebbe then held up a finger, "He is wherever you let Him in." 

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