Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha| 5763
Listen to ThisHarav Moshe Ehrenreich
Our parasha opens with the famous command to Avraham to leave his land, the place of his birth, and the house of his father (Bereishit 12:1). The question is why the order of leaving seems out of order, as first one leaves his house before he leaves his land.
It is apparently for this reason that Chazal (Bereishit Rabba 39:1) understood that the command referred to a spiritual journey, above and beyond the physical one. They, therefore, connected our pasuk to the pasuk in Tehillim (45:11), “Listen, daughter, and see and incline your ear and forget your nation and your father’s house.” The pasuk describes a beautiful woman who is brought before the king, but the Malbim explains it as a parable to the inner neshama becoming connected to Hashem.
Avraham and, later on, the souls of his descendants, were expected to leave outside, negative influences and cling to Hashem. Under such circumstances, one first is able to rid himself of the more exterior influences of the country and only afterward from the practices of the home.
The pasuk in Tehillim describes how the neshama should listen, see, and listen again. “The Nazir,” Harav David Cohen, in Kol Han’vuah (pg. 25) writes that Jewish thought is not based on sight, form, and the palpable, but on hearing. Avraham, whose name is related to the phrase, “av hamon,” can also be described as the one who is sensitive to the hemiyah (sound) of the world. The Nazir calls this “the law of the Jewish logic of hearing.” This principle encompasses the Jewish thought process, the system of extrapolating halacha, the hidden elements of the Torah, and even the sound of prophecy. The absolute truths to which Israel is exposed are acquired not by seeing lofty things but by internal hearing of subtle, holy matters. That is the significance behind, “Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One.”
Hearing refers to the compliance to that which is written in the Torah and that which one has heard from his mentors and teachers. Seeing refers to that which one grasps on his own. Seeing is superior to hearing in certain areas of halacha (especially, in regard to testimony). So too, it would appear that serving Hashem through personal understanding is loftier and encourages more enthusiasm than acting due to simple compliance. But hearing has advantages over seeing. If a thin (but not transparent) partition separates a person from that which he wants to see, then he is unable to see it. But under those same circumstances, he can hear through the partition. So too, when fulfilling mitzvot based on one’s own vision/understanding, every personal preference is liable to distort the true picture in a dangerous way. While serving Hashem and fulfilling the commands of the Torah, we should strive for the type of introspection which can help create the necessary enthusiasm. However, in the final analysis, we should act because Hashem commanded us to do so.
The Ba’al Hatanya explains the advice of Shlomo Hamelech, “Educate the youngster according to his way, even when he grows old, he will not stray from it,” in the following manner. In the beginning of a youth’s path of Divine Service, it is possible to base the education only on compliance, not understanding. If this is done, then even when he becomes older and wiser, and can and does understand the significance of the mitzvot in depth, he will continue to actually carry out the mitzvot from a perspective of compliance, as he should.
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