Every child knows the story of Abraham - how he discovered G‑d as a lad, broke his father’s idols, was thrown into the furnace by Nimrod and saved by G‑d.

None of these details, however, can be found in the Written Torah. The Torah mentions Abraham only briefly at the close of Parshas Noach, telling us that he was born, that he married, and that he accompanied his father on his journey from Ur towards Canaan. But the focus of these verses is on Terach, not on Abraham. It is only in Parshas Lech Lecha, with the command, “Go out of your land, your native country, and your father’s house,” that the Torah begins unfolding the history of the founder of our people.

Why this emphasis? Before receiving this command to leave his father’s house, Abraham had already attained a high level of Divine service. He had “recognized his Creator” at three, and from that age onward continued to grow in faith. He had been willing to sacrifice his life for G‑d, and a miracle was performed to save him.

All this, however, represented merely his own striving to approach G‑d. The command Lech Lecha, “Go out of your land,” began a new and deeper relationship with his Maker. For as our Sages state: “A person who observes a mitzvah because he is commanded to do so is greater than one who observes it without having been so commanded.”

The word mitzvah and the word tzavsa, meaning “together,” share the same root. When a person fulfills a Divine command because he has been commanded to do so, the act connects him to G‑d in all His infinity. Were, by contrast, the person to perform the same deed without having been commanded to do so, the act, however worthy, would remain merely a good deed.

Lech means “proceed,” referring to the beginning of a journey. This concept is alluded to in the Torah’s description of Abraham “continuing on his way, steadily progressing southward,” i.e., in the direction of Jerusalem, the place where G‑d’s presence is most manifest.

Real spiritual progress requires that one leave one’s current state behind. Yet as long as an individual’s growth depends entirely on his own power, his progress will be limited; nobody can exceed the bounds of his own understanding. When, by contrast, one’s progress is guided by G‑d, there are no limits to the potential for growth. The Torah and its mitzvos can take a person far beyond his natural horizons. To accentuate this point, G‑d tells Abraham to proceed “to the land which I will show you,” without specifying a destination.

The expression “I will show you,” arecka in Hebrew, can also be rendered “I will reveal you,” i.e., through the journey to Eretz Yisrael, Abraham’s true self was revealed to him. This is also indicated by the expression Lech Lecha, which literally means “go to yourself,” i.e., “to your essence.”

As we proceed through life, each of us is given the chance to discover who he is, what G‑d is, and that the two are one.