Parshas Lech Lecha

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

ויאמר ה’ אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך (פרק יב פסוק א)

Our Parsha begins with Hashem telling Avraham to leave his father’s house in חרן and travel to an undisclosed destination. This is regarded by Chazal as being one of the ten נסיונות that Avraham was tested with throughout his life. The commandment is phrased in an interesting way. When leaving a place of residence, one physically leaves their house first, then their community, and then their country. However, when Avraham was commanded to leave, Hashem told him first to leave his land, then his birthplace, and then his father’s house. Why was the order reversed? Additionally, why didn’t Hashem disclose his destination immediately? The Malbim explains that Avraham wasn’t just being told to leave his geographic location, rather Hashem was telling him to remove himself from the entire mindset and ideology of his upbringing and to leave it all behind. He was being commanded to rid himself entirely of the beliefs of his society. In this process Avraham began with “leaving” his land because the beliefs of the country were less ingrained in him and therefore easier to abandon. After that he went on to the more difficult steps of leaving behind the ideals of his birthplace and of his father’s house. It is for this reason that Hashem waited to tell Avraham that he will be going to Eretz Yisroel. Eretz Yisroel is a very holy place and in order to properly appreciate it one can’t be influenced by impure ideals. Therefore, Avraham had to first purify himself from the השקפה of his upbringing and only then could he prepare himself to live in the קדושה of Eretz Yisroel.

וירא ה’ אל אברם ויאמר…התהלך לפני והיה תמים (פרק יז פסוק א)

The end of the Parsha discusses in detail Hashem presenting the מצוה of מילה to Avraham. The introduction to this מצוה is Hashem telling Avraham התהלך לפני והיה תמים “to walk before me and to be complete”. Rashi explains this to mean that through Avraham obeying the commandment of מילה he will be whole and complete. This is a reference to the fact that so long as a person is uncircumcised, he is considered to be a בעל מום and therefore incomplete. Why is it that specifically with this מצוה we recognize that it brings a person to perfection? Doesn’t every מצוה add to a person’s spiritual wholeness? The Slonimer Rebbe in his Sefer Nesivos Shalom explains that while it’s true that every positive commandment perfects a person spiritually, מילה has a special attribute over other מצוות. He says that מילה doesn’t just raise the spirituality of one’s soul; it transforms his physical body into something holy. The differentiation between Jews and non-Jews is not just in our minds and hearts, rather the מצוה of מילה separates our physicality from a non-Jew’s. It is through this מצוה that we become “complete” on a whole new level- that our bodies themselves attain a wholeness different than the bodies of the rest of the world.

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