"Go forth from your homeland, from your birthplace, and from your father's house...."1,2

In Torah Or, the Alter Rebbe explains that this command has two dimensions, as implied by the use of a plural term in the phrase: "And he proceeded on his journeys." This indicates that there are two journeys: from below upward and from above downward.

In that maamar, [the Alter Rebbe] proceeds to explain the concept of journeying from above downward, stating that Avram (אברם), [the name by which Avraham was known at that time,] is a composite of the words אב רם, which refers to "intellect that is hidden from all conceptualization."3 From this [elevated] rung, one must journey forth from above downward until one reaches "the land that I will show you."4 "The land" refers to the sefirah of Malchus.5 And it also refers to the land in its simplest sense.

Although this journey is from above downward, through this journey, Avram's level is enhanced and he is elevated to the extent that his name is changed to Avraham (אברהם), i.e., a hei is added. [The addition of that letter] indicates that "I have made you a father of nations."6 Since he descended to become "a father of nations," the letter hei was added to his name. For to descend to a lower level, it is necessary to receive influence from a higher rung.

To cite a parallel, when a scholar needs to convey [an idea] to a child or a person with an underdeveloped intellectual potential, he requires an extra measure of understanding to convey [the idea]. Indeed, we see that there are great scholars who do not have the capacity to convey [their understanding] to [people on] a lower level. [King] Shlomo, of whom it was said:7 "And Shlomo was wiser than all men," [was unique in that] he could convey ideas to a lower level, as it is written:8 "And Shlomo related 3000 analogies." Implied is that he saw the matter on 3000 levels and on each level, he had to enclothe it in an analogy. Now an anal­ogy involves illustrating the analogue using a foreign entity that resembles it. {For example, our Sages often describe G‑d's sover­eignty using the analogy of a mortal monarch.} [Shlomo had this potential, because] he was endowed with greater understanding.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the matter at hand. In order for Avraham to negotiate a descent from "intellect that is hidden from all conceptualization" to "the land that I will show you" and become "a father of nations," it was necessary that a hei be added to his name.

With regard to the journey from below upward, it is ex­plained in the maamarim of Parshas Lech Lecha9 — and indeed, this interpretation reflects the simple meaning of the phrase lech lecha, for a verse should not be interpreted outside its simple meaning — that this involves leaving "your homeland, from your birthplace, and from your father's house," i.e., from Charan, "[the place] in the world that [aroused] G‑d's wrath,"10 and from Ur Casdim.11 From these lowly places, he journeyed to "the land that I will show you," [Eretz Yisrael]. At that time, it was still the land of Canaan, as it is written:12 "The Canaanites were in the land." Nevertheless, as Rashi states,13 the Canaanites were then conquer­ing the land from the descendants of Shem.14 Moreover, even when the land was the land of Canaan, it was much more refined than Charan and Ur Casdim, as indicated by the phrase,15 "Your ancestors lived on the other side of the river." That phrase has a positive interpretation16 [that "the river" refers to Binah, "under­standing," and] "the other side of the river," refers to "intellect that is hidden from all conceptualization."17 Nevertheless, there is also a negative connotation,15 as the verse concludes ("and they served other gods"). Terach served idols and Avram broke his father's idols.18

Thus the journey of Lech Lecha was one of ascent. After Avraham broke the idols in his father's house and in his homeland, he journeyed to "the land that I will show you," Eretz Yisrael. "There, he called forth the name of G‑d, L‑rd of the world (א-ל
עולם)."19 [Now, "L‑rd of the world" would be stated (א-ל העולם). Stating א-ל עולם, implies that G‑d and the world are not two separate entities.] As Rashi20 states, while Avraham was in his father's house, G‑d was only "the G‑d of the heavens." The world was regarded as a separate entity and G‑d was the "L‑rd of the world." Afterwards, Avraham brought about [the awareness] that G‑d was the א-ל עולם, i.e., that the world and G‑d are one entity,21 as reflected in the Rambam's22 description of Avraham's Divine service.

The two interpretations of the nature of Avraham's journey are interrelated. In order to allow the descent of "intellect that is hidden from all conceptualization" to the lowest levels, the potential must be granted from an elevated level, as explained above. The granting of this potential was generated by the ascent upward. Only when that was achieved was it possible for there to be a descent to these low levels. Afterwards, through the descent, one reaches "the land that I will show you." That phrase can also be interpreted to mean "the land where I will reveal you," i.e., there Avraham's essential qualities would be revealed.

Avraham our Patriarch serves as an exemplar for each of us. It is written:23 "Avraham was but one." He is called24 "Avraham HaIvri," which is interpreted25 as meaning "Avraham was on one side and the entire world was on the other." This approach must be emulated by every Jew. For he receives Avraham's entire spiritual legacy as an inheritance.26 Thus every Jew must carry out both thrusts of Divine service. In the beginning of his Divine service in the morning (every day), he must ascend upward via "the ladder of prayer," reciting the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh which reflect a progression upward.

This is the intent of "Go out from your homeland, from your birthplace, and from your father's house...," that one leave his individual will, his habits, his patterns of thought, and his emotional tendencies and ascend upward. Afterwards, once this effort has generated potential, we proceed to the Divine service implied by the phrase:27 "Follow the prevailing mode of worldly conduct," a descent into this lower realm. It is there where "I will show you," that the essential qualities of every Jew can be revealed. "I will show you" also implies the revelation of G‑dliness. For through the descent to this lowly plane, one ascends to his root and source, indeed, even above his root and source, above the source of even the emanated realms, to his true root and source, as it is written:28 "The spirit will return to G‑d Who granted it." This is the true conception of teshuvah.29

Through Divine service in these two paths, we reach the revelations of the Ultimate Future, of which it is said:30 "And I will walk among you." [The reflexive form of the verb] implies that there will be two types of walking.31 And "I will lead you upright."32 [The plural form of the term implies] "two levels." This will be brought about by "our deeds and Divine service in the era of exile,"33 and in particular, in the time of ikvesa deMashicha." Through this service we come to "the land that I will show you," the revelation of G‑dliness to the extent that it can actually be seen. As it is written:34 "Your Master will no longer veil Himself," i.e., without garments35

A microcosm of this revelation already was tasted at the time of the Giving of the Torah,34 when G‑dliness was actually seen, but that was merely a foretaste of the future revelation. In the Ultimate Future, our entire [relationship with G‑d] will [revolve around] sight, as explained at length in Shaar HaEmunah (and in brief in Likkutei Torah). In the Ultimate Future, Torah study will come through sight.

This is brought about by our Divine service in the two manners of journeying described previously. In general, these two paths are reflected in the Torah and its mitzvos. For the Torah reflects the path of revelation from above, as it is written:36 "From heaven, He caused you to hear His voice." Mitzvos, by contrast, reflect the elevation of material entities (as explained in Torah Or, at the outset). Through these efforts we come to the fulfillment of the prophecy,31 "I will lead you upright and I will be your G‑d." May this take place speedily, in the immediate future.

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