In the portion of Lech Lecha, G‑d commanded Abraham, lech lecha, “go for yourself, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you."1 G‑d continues to tell Abraham, "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great."2 This is the first command given the first Jew. There is obviously a profound message that is being transmitted for every Jewish person, for all time.

What is the message? There are two approaches3 to understanding this verse.

The first is that it is referring to the journey of the soul, a descent from above to below. The soul is asked to leave its home in the highest spiritual realms and make the descent into the lowest possible plane, the physical world. But in this earthly realm it affects the most change and accomplishes its purpose. The effect is so powerful that it brings G‑d's blessing and becomes great. This means that the soul is uplifted to higher spiritual realms, beyond where it was before its descent.

In this way of understanding the verse, we are given a glimpse of our purpose, the goal of every one of us, to make this world into a better place, the way G‑d wants it. A place where G‑d could call home.

The second approach is more in line with the simple meaning of the verse. It refers to the ascent from below to above we must make every day. We go from "your land, your birthplace, and your father's house," which in the context of the verse, refers to a place and an atmosphere of idol worship, "to the land that I will show you," the land of Israel, a place of holiness.

This is especially poignant now after the holidays, when we are thrust into the mundane, which chasidic teaching calls, V'Yaakov halach l'darko, “and Jacob went on his way"4--meaning that every "Jacob," every Jew, goes on his way after the holidays, doing his mission to transform his part of the world into a dwelling place for G‑d.

We use the name Jacob, which comes from the word eikev, a heel, which is the lowest part of a person's body, because we can even transform the lowest part of ourselves to do G‑d's will. When the heel is transformed and moves in the ways of G‑d, it takes the rest of the body with it.

We see this on Simchat Torah, the grand finale of the holidays. When we celebrate through dancing with the soles of our feet, the body and head dance as well. This is the same message and a preparation for the rest of the year. If you can get the lowest part of you to serve G‑d, then all of you will serve G‑d. And if you can transform the lowest part of the world into a dwelling place for G‑d, you can then transform the whole world. Because when you lift something from the bottom, you lift the entire thing.

Torah, mitzvot and living the life of a Jew transform this world, and we have the power to do it. We inherited the ability from our forefather Abraham. It is through this work that we complete G‑d's command to Abraham: lech lecha.

Although these two explanations are opposites—the first, a descent, and the second, an ascent—they are both explanations of the same verse and are therefore simultaneously true. We must take both messages at the same time. To descend to this world, and we should try to change it from the bottom up.

Lech Lecha is a call to every Jewish person, to do all you can to complete the mission and make this world into a home for G‑d. It is through both of these approaches working simultaneously that we create an environment that the highest levels of G‑dliness, even the levels that are beyond the world, to enter the world and become part of our lives.5

This is the key to the blessings found in our parshah, and the path to the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.