Rabbi Avi Goldberg
Former Rosh Kollel in Memphis
The famous beginning of this week’s parasha is G-d’s command to Avraham to leave his country and family and go to the land of Israel. G-d promises to reward Avraham with a great nation from his descendents and to be the source of blessing to all people. It is the first time G-d talks to a Jew, and the content is the land of Israel. The Torah doesn’t tell us about any previous relationship or conversation between G-d and Avraham, and the question rises by itself – Why was Avraham chosen to be the one to have this connection to G-d? Why was Avraham the one whose descendents were to become the chosen nation?
Our sages fill in the blanks, and the Midrashim go into stories and descriptions of Avraham’s search of G-d.
But going back to the words of the Torah, we do find some explanation of the choice of Avraham. When Gd is planning to punish Sedom he tells Avraham about it beforehand. The Torah explains why G-d tells Avraham – and says that it’s because G-d knows that Avraham will teach his sons and family in the generations to come to keep the way of Hashem, to do Tzedaka and justice”
Avraham was chosen because he is the one who cares about the future. Avraham is the first one in the world that Hashem knew that his children would continue his message through all the generations to this very day. This characteristic of Avraham seems to be very central, and we can feel the future vision and the progress many times in Avrahams life.
Avraham is the first one to have students in the Torah – “Chanichim” (Breishit, 14 14)
If we compare Noach to Avraham, like our sages do, we could feel the opposite characteristic with Noach. First of all – the name Noach means rest. When G-d tells Noach about the Mabul, we don’t find him reaching out to the people of his time and trying to change their ways. Chazal even say that Noach is similar to Shabbat, to the day of rest, the day when we don’t change anything and mustn’t make any creative progress.
Avraham is chosen because he is the one who tries to continue on and on with the search, with the building and with the progress. If we look again at this week’s opening verse, we sense the same idea again. Where is Avraham told to go? To the land that he would be shown. Why doesn’t G-d say it straight forward – to Israel? Again – Avraham is a person of search and progress, of continuous growth. Going to the land of Israel isn’t just a Geographical change, but also a spiritual work on our wanting and wishing.
In the same way, we are commanded as a nation to build the temple in “the place that G-d will choose”. It is not just a Geographical definition, but also a command towards strengthening our aspirations. Our sages learn that Jerusalem will be rebuilt only after a true search.
It is also significant that we meet Avraham for the first time through the word “Go” – “lech”. Avraham is showing us from the beginning through his dynamic life, to ‘go’, to progress all the time.
We, the nation of Avraham, are the ones to continue this heritage, and have to continue wanting, continue trying and asking for progress.