Rebbetzin Holly Pavlov
In an act of tremendous faith in the Divine, Avraham leaves for an unknown land, a land that God had promised would bring great blessing to him and his children. Yet, as soon as he arrives, God strikes the land with a famine so devastating that Avraham is forced to go down to Egypt in search of food.
Why does God, after having commanded Avraham to go to the land of Israel, bring a famine that compels him to leave it? What is Avraham to gain by his stay in Egypt? Surely, God must have a benevolent purpose for forcing Avraham to abandon the land and then later return to it.
Egypt was the center of materialism, and Pharoah was the king of the material world. By contrast, Avraham was the master of spirituality and morality. One might think that spiritual knowledge should suffice for living a righteous life in the land of Israel, but this is not true. Avraham has to learn how to use the physical world, because in Israel spirituality and physicality are intertwined. It is the land where a farmer must do all the same physical work required of any farmer, but waits for rain, knowing that rainfall, and thus the harvest, depend only on his spiritual actions. For six years the farmer labors to grow crops, trusting that on the seventh, the land will miraculously yield its produce without his efforts.
In modern Israel, as well, we must take concrete steps to ensure the economic health and military security of our nation. Yet we too know that true security and financial strength depend on the God of Avraham Avinu.