1. Parshas Lech Lecha is a parshah of general significance, because it begins the description of the activities of Avraham, the first Jew. It begins with G‑d’s command to Avraham to leave his native land, describes his journey through Eretz Yisrael, G‑d’s promises to him, and culminates with the description of Avraham’s circumcision. All of these events are of general significance, sharing relevance not only to Avraham, but to all of his descendants.

Avraham’s service1 began the period described as “the two thousand years of Torah,” i.e., he began the process of preparation for the giving of the Torah. Moreover, the union with G‑d which he achieved through his service resembled the union achieved after the giving of the Torah.

We must understand, however, the relevance of these matters to us at present. The intent is not merely that we appreciate that Avraham’s service represents a historical event which helped lead to our present relationship with G‑d. Rather, this narrative must provide us with a concept that we can live with and apply in our lives at present.

The difficulty in appreciating the relevance of the narrative of Avraham’s service becomes more difficult to conceive in light of the above statement that his service prepared for the giving of the Torah. For at present, the Torah has already been given. Indeed, each day we praise G‑d as “the Giver of the Torah” using the present tense, implying that every day, the Torah is given anew.2 If so, it is difficult to conceive of the relevance of the events of Lech Lecha as preparatory steps for the giving of the Torah.

Furthermore, it cannot be said that this Torah reading is intended only for those individuals whose connection to the giving of the Torah is lacking. For the giving of the Torah is not dependent on the service of the Jews. On the contrary, it is a revelation from Above which affected — and affects — changes within the world at large and within the Jewish people, bringing them to a complete level of fulfillment.3

Nevertheless, the conception of the giving of the Torah as a continually present happening itself serves as an explanation of the relevance of the service preceding the giving of the Torah. Since the Torah is constantly being given anew,4 the service of preparing for the giving of the Torah is always relevant.

2. The service of Lech Lecha is also relevant to the ultimate purpose of the giving of the Torah, the application of the Torah and its mitzvos in our world which is related to the settlement of Eretz Yisrael — and in an extended sense, to our service of “making this place Eretz Yisrael.5 Thus Parshas Lech Lecha describes G‑d’s promise of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people and Avraham’s travels through the land through which he acquired it for his descendants forever. Indeed, G‑d’s very promise of Eretz Yisrael is considered as having transferred ownership of the land to Avraham.6

There is a particular relevance to G‑d’s promise in the present age, the era immediately preceding Mashiach’s coming. For G‑d promised Avraham the lands of ten nations, including not only the lands of the seven Canaanite nations conquered by the Jews after the exodus from Egypt, but also the lands of the Keini, the Kenizi, and the Kadmoni. G‑d promised — and thus gave — the Jewish people all these ten lands at the same time. Nevertheless, in the present era, we were granted only the lands of seven nations and the fulfillment of this promise in its full sense will not be until the Era of the Redemption.7

Similarly, it is in the Era of the Redemption that the relationship between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael will reach a full state of completion. For then the concept of “All its inhabitants will dwell upon it” will be fulfilled in the most complete manner. Even in previous generations when “all the inhabitants [of the land dwelled] upon it,” it was only the inhabitants of that generation who lived in Eretz Yisrael. In the Era of the Redemption, by contrast, not only all the Jews of that generation — including the Ten Tribes who are presently behind the Sambation River — but also all the Jews of all previous generations who will arise in the Resurrection, will live there.

Thus in the present generation, we are still involved in the process of preparing to take possession of Eretz Yisrael, to expand the land so that it includes the lands of the Keini, Kenizi, and the Kadmoni. This is particularly relevant in the present age when, to borrow an expression of the Previous Rebbe’s, “we have polished all the buttons,” and according to all signs, ours is the last generation of the exile and the first generation of the redemption.

Herein, there is also a connection to the concept described above, that Lech Lecha begins the preparations for the giving of the Torah, for in the Era of the Redemption, the ultimate expression of the Torah will be revealed, the “new [dimensions of the] Torah will emerge from Me.”

There is a connection between the two. The ultimate purpose of the giving of the Torah is to nullify the division between the material realms and the spiritual, so that even those spiritual influences which are fundamentally transcendent in nature will be drawn down within the context of our material world. This is accomplished through the mitzvos which are enclothed in material entities, causing these entities to be transformed into sacred articles. In this manner, a dwelling for G‑d’s essence is established in this material world.

This service began with G‑d’s command to Avraham, “Go out from your land, your birthplace, and your father’s house.” Avraham was already 75 years old when he received this command and had carried out several elevated services to G‑d — he “recognized his Creator,” spread the awareness of Him throughout the world, and was willing to sacrifice his life for G‑d.8 Nevertheless, none of these activities are explicitly mentioned in the Torah, for they represent his limited human efforts to live in a spiritual manner.9 With the command, “Go out,” Avraham departed from this limited framework of reference and began the service of nullifying the limitations that separate the spiritual from the material.

Lech also means “proceed,” and indeed, Avraham’s journey represented true progress. He did not remain content with his previous service and sought to transcend his previous level entirely and proceed to a new and unbounded rung of service. This process of advance is reflected in the changing of his name from Avram to Avraham. Rashi explains that Avram has the implication “father of Aram,” while Avraham alludes to the Hebrew words meaning “father of many nations,” i.e., he was given the potential to elevate the entire world.

This is also reflected in the command to proceed “to the land which I will show you.” 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 Avraham’s essential self was revealed. This in turn gave him the potential to elevate his surrounding environment, preparing the world for the union with spirituality to be achieved through the giving of the Torah.10

The union between the spiritual and the physical which Avraham achieved through his service is given its most complete expression in the mitzvah of circumcision. Circumcision represents a “covenant in the flesh,” which endows our physical bodies themselves with a dimension of holiness. Thus when Avraham desired that Eliezar take an oath while holding an object of holiness, he told him, “Place your hand beneath my thigh.”11

Thus through the mitzvah of circumcision “the deeds of the fathers are a sign to their descendants.” For this mitzvah establishes a connection between the mitzvos performed by the forefathers and the mitzvos performed by their descendants after the giving of the Torah.

Among all the mitzvos, circumcision was chosen to serve this function, because it involves our physical bodies themselves, and indeed that aspect of our bodies which is extremely materially oriented. Not only does the mitzvah of circumcision weaken the material desire associated with this portion of our bodies, it infuses it with holiness. Through this mitzvah, this portion of our bodies serves to express the eternal covenant existing between G‑d and the Jewish people, revealing this holiness to everyone in the world at large.12

On this basis, we can understand the connection between the promise of Eretz Yisrael to Avraham’s descendants in Parshas Lech Lecha and the giving of the Torah. Eretz Yisrael was given to Avraham’s descendants so that they would transform it into a dwelling for G‑d. For it is through the conquest and settlement of Eretz Yisrael that the fusion of spirituality and physicality associated with the giving of the Torah will come to its ultimate expression. And thus Avraham’s journey to Eretz Yisrael and the mitzvah of circumcision can be seen as sharing the same theme, unifying spirituality and physicality and thus creating a dwelling for G‑d in this world.13

In this context, we can understand the connection of these concepts with the simple meaning of Lech Lecha, to “go out” and to “proceed.” For the progress toward the giving of the Torah and surely, the progress towards the ultimate Redemption, represents a departure from our limited state. Thus until the Era of the Redemption, we are constantly in a state of progress, seeking to take possession of Eretz Yisrael as it exists in a full state, a land of ten nations.

These ten lands refer to the refinement of our personal powers, the seven emotional powers and the three intellectual powers. In the present time, the Jews were granted only the lands of seven nation, i.e., the seven emotional powers. Although we also make use of our intellect, at present, the intellect serves the emotions. In contrast, in the Era of the Redemption, the three intellectual powers will be expressed in their full potential, being used to achieve a complete bond with G‑d. For through Torah study, a wondrous unity is established, connecting one’s mind to G‑d as He is manifest in the Torah. This allows for a complete unity for “G‑d and the Torah are one.”14

This will be reflected in an all-encompassing revelation of G‑dliness that will characterize the Era of the Redemption, “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.” The sea15 — “the sea of Torah” — will cover all elements of existence, to the extent that the individual identity will be suffused by the awareness of G‑d.

3. The above leads to a practical directive. Every Jew must exercise his full potential for Torah study and thus, develop new concepts in Torah. Even if a person has already studied extensively previously, he still has the potential to develop new horizons in Torah study for the Torah is infinite in nature. Since it is G‑d’s Torah, it is unlimited as He is.

The person’s potential to develop new Torah concepts is not reflected merely in the development of concepts that reflect his ordinary powers of thought. Since these powers are within his grasp and need only a small degree of effort to be revealed, the concepts developed through such efforts can genuinely be described as “new.” Which concepts are entirely “new”? Those which are developed through use of a person’s hidden potential, powers which one is not conscious that he possesses.

Similar concepts apply in our efforts to spread the study of Torah to others. (Herein there is a specific connection for Shabbos, for Shabbos is a time when groups should congregate for Torah study.) Even when a person already has many students, he must constantly be seeking to “raise up many [new] students,” for there are many individuals to whom one can reach out and involve in Torah study.

Similarly, the concepts that one shares with others must be challenging. They must motivate the students to use their own hidden powers to develop new Torah concepts.

There is a unique potential for such service in the present age. Since, as mentioned above, we will develop the full potential of our three intellectual powers in the Era of the Redemption, it is possible to attain a foretaste of that level of awareness in the present age. Furthermore, the development of our thinking processes in this manner will precipitate the advent of that Redemption. The above is particularly true when the subject matter studied is within the realm of Pnimiyus HaTorah and more specifically, when it concerns concepts relevant to the Redemption.

And this will lead to the era when, “the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d.” Furthermore, at that time, G‑dliness will permeate, not only the human realm, but the totality of existence as the prophet states, “A stone from the wall will cry out.” “And everything that has been formed will know that You have formed it.” For it will be revealed how the entire world is a dwelling for G‑d. May this take place in the immediate future.