Rabbi Yisroel Chait
In Genesis Chapter 11 verses 31 and 32 the Torah recites that Terach
took Abraham, Lot and Sarah and moved from Ur Casdim towards the land of
Canaan. They ultimately settled in Charan where Terach lived until 205
years old. He thereafter died in Charan. Rashi tells us that Abraham actually
was commanded by G-d to leave 60 years prior to Terach's death. However,
the Torah does not want to publicize the fact that Abraham left his father
when he was an old man, lest he be suspected of disregarding the commandment
of honoring his father. This concern is evident because the Torah never
portrayed Terach's real identity as an idol worshipper. However, this contributed
to the fact that G-d commanded Abraham while his father was still alive,
to leave his land, his birthplace and his father's house and go to the land
that I (G-d) will show you.
Rashi on verse 1 of Chapter 12 asks a very simplistic but insightful
question. G-d is telling Abraham to leave his birthplace. This is puzzling
because his birthplace was Ur Casdim which Abraham already left. He had
previously departed to Canaan with his father and settled in Charan. Rashi
answers that G-d informed Abraham that he should depart further from Charan
and leave his fathers home. Furthermore, G-d tells Abraham to move to a
land that I will show you. Rashi comments that G-d did not show him the
land immediately in order to make the land more beloved in his eyes. Additionally,
G-d's command to leave is verbose and seems redundant. Leave your land,
birthplace and your fathers house, are all these terms necessary to describe
the same place? Rashi explains that G-d wanted to reward him for each
and every word that G-d uttered with respect to his departure from Charan.
Upon closer scrutinization, Rashi's explanations raise several questions.
Why didn't G-d simply state leave Charan and not as Rashi equates it,
as a further departure from Ur Casdim. We must also attempt to understand
in what manner does God's concealing the identity of the land make it more
appealing. Additionally what is Rashi's intent in stating that G-d wanted
Abraham to be rewarded for each word uttered. What is the correlation between
the length of the utterance to the reward and the ethical perfection of
Abraham was raised in Terach's home which was a household which worshipped
idols. Despite these influences Abraham recognized G-d as the source of
reality. This attests the strength of Abraham's intellectual conviction.
He elevated himself to a higher level of perfection. However, even Abraham
was subject to the influences of his father's home. A human being has a
certain underlying base which throughout his life gives him a strong sense
of security. This base usually stems from ones childhood. Throughout one's
life it provides a sense of comfort and well being which allows the individual
to become a functioning member of society.
If one were to analyze man's need for this sense of security it originates
from the same emotion responsible for mans desire for idolatry. Human nature
demands certain assurances in order to protect and shield man from his
insecurities. The Pagans sought the protection of all different G-ds, to
shield them from all impending disasters of the outside world, real or imagined.
G-d by instructing Abraham to leave Ur Casdim was teaching Abraham
an important concept which was essential for Abraham's quest for moral perfection.
Ur Casdim represented to Abraham his base of security. He originally
departed Ur Casdim to go to Canaan, but he stayed in Charan. Charan was
not their ultimate destination. Politically he had to depart from Ur Casdim,
but Charan was close enough in proximity to offer the security of Ur Casdim.,
to which Abraham had a strong emotional attachment to. It was his home base
and gave him psychological security. Abraham had difficulty in abandoning
the security of Ur Casdim. Rashi therefore explains, G-d commanded him
to leave his birthplace, although he was already in Charan. Charan represented
an extension of Ur Casdim. Charan afforded him the same security as Ur
Casdim. Therefore Rashi explains that he should depart further from Ur
Casdim. A person's home affords a person a strong sense of psychological
security. A home is not just a physical phenomenon but a psychological
phenomenon. The All Mighty was telling Abraham to leave behind this security.
Rashi explains that G-d told Abraham to leave his "Artzicha",
hometown, "Moladit'cha", his birthplace and "Bais Avicha",
his father's home in order to give him reward on each aspect of his removal.
Each one of these ideas gives a person unique psychological comfort, which
the perfected individual must abandon.
"Artzicha", his land represents a certain familiarity with
a place which affords one the security an alien land can not afford.
"Moladit'cha", his birthplace, one's childhood hometown nourishes
a certain special nostalgic feeling in a person which comforts him throughout
"Bais Avicha", his fathers household. An individuals parents
provide him with a strong sense of security. This security emanates from
childhood, whereby the parent provided for and took care of all the child's
G-d was telling Abraham to abandon all the psychological and emotional
security that he had from these phenomena. A wise man abandons all his psychological
insecurities and takes comfort only in reality. The creator of the world,
G-d is his security. Therefore Rashi is teaching us that G-d told Abraham,
leave behind the emotional security of your childhood, your land, your birthplace
and your fathers home.
"Throw your bundles to G-d and his will be your portion".
A chacham, (wise person) only seeks security in a system of ideas and concepts,
with Hashem, G-d, at the source of this system. His security is the halachic
system which gives him comfort and guides him though life. His security
is solely placed in the fact that he is living a life that is in line with
the ultimate reality. Attaining this sense of security demands an abandonment
of the psychological and emotional securities that most individuals require.
It is an extremely painful and difficult task but it is essential for a
chacham in order to reach true perfection. This perfection demands that
Hashem is his sole source of security.
These insights can also explain why G-d did not choose to show Abraham
the land immediately. If G-d were to have shown Abraham the land at the
time of his departure from Charan, he would merely have attached his need
for security, to the new land. He would substitute the security furnished
by his hometown with the security of his newly promised land. Thus G-d
did not show him the land yet, as Rashi explains, in order that it should
be cherished in his eyes. The love Abraham was ultimately going to have
for the land would be based upon the halachic system and his relationship
with Hashem as the source of that system. The love was not the love which
an ordinary man displays for his homeland, which usually just represents
his security. It was a qualitatively different type of love whereby Abraham
would find his need for security fulfilled in his relationship with G-d.
Therefore, G-d did not tell Abraham where he was going because the mind
would naturally look for a substitute source of security. Only by Abraham's
aspiring to this higher level of perfection, would he find G-d as his source
of security. His ultimate love for the land would thus be based upon its
special role in the halachic system. It could not be based on an emotional
sense of chauvinism. Only after reaching this level of perfection could
G-d bless Abraham and make him into a great nation "goy gadol"
This blessing would therefore not be perceived by Abraham as a means to
find security in his posterity, but rather as the ideal for establishing
Am Yisroel, the Jewish people.