1. The Torah relates that the first command which G‑d gave the first Jew, Avraham, was “Go out from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” This raises a question: On the surface, it would seem more appropriate that the first command given to a Jew would clarify the nature of service to be rendered to G‑d.

There are commentaries which explain tat Avraham’s journey is symbolic of the preparatory step necessary to serve G‑d. To serve Him properly, on must depart from all worldly perspectives. Only after turning away from evil,” one can then, “do good,” and serve G‑d in a desirable manner. Nevertheless, since every concept in Torah contains a self-contained purpose and does not merely function as a preparation for another service, it follows that this command must also be seen in such a light. Accordingly we must perceive Avraham’s journey as part — indeed, the beginning and the foundation — of every Jew’s service of G‑d

This concept can be clarified through the explanation of other problematic points in this verse. Among the difficulties raised by the verse are the following:

a) On the surface, since the intent of G‑d’s command was for Avraham to journey to a different land, it would seem more appropriate to say, “Go to the land that I will show you.” Why is it necessary to mention the place from which Avraham had to leave? Even if that was necessary, why is it necessary to elaborate, “from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house”?

b) The order of the clauses, “from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house” is also problematic. On the surface, first one leaves one’s “father’s house,” then one’s “birthplace” and then one’s “land,” the direct opposite of the order chosen by the verse.

c) On the surface, it would have been appropriate to give Avraham some insight into the nature of the land which would be his destination so that he could prepare himself and take with him any articles that he would require there.

d) This verse (in contrast to other verses in the same passage) does not mention that G‑d revealed Himself to Avraham. It relates G‑d’s command directly without any introductory remarks.

The above points can be explained as follows: G‑d’s command to Avraham to leave Charan began the preparatory service for the giving of the Torah, the event which forged the identity of the Jews as G‑d’s chosen nation. Thus, this command expresses the fundamental principles which characterize the service of the Jewish people.

A Jew lives in a physical world which is governed by the forces of nature which conceal G‑dly light. Furthermore, he is born with certain natural tendencies and is influenced by his environment. Nevertheless, he has the potential to rise above these limitations and, through the Torah and its mitzvos, serve G‑d who transcends all these limitations. He can reveal G‑dliness within the world and elevate the world above the level which it could otherwise attain.

Though “the world was created in a complete state”1 a Jew has the potential to lift it to a higher level of completion. The Midrash explains that before the giving of the Torah, there was a decree separating the higher realms from the lower realms. The giving of the Torah nullified that decree and afforded the potential for the Jews to ascend to the higher spiritual realms while living in this material word and to reveal G‑dliness in this lowly, material world.

The first stage of such service is a Jew’s willingness to leave “your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house.” These three terms reflect three influences of a general nature which affect a person’s character and behavior. “Your land” refers to the basic physical and material tendencies with which we are all born. “Your birthplace” to the traits and dispositions acquired from one’s environment, and “your father’s house” to those attitudes and character thrusts ingrained by one’s home.2

On another level, these three terms reflect three levels within a person’s own character: “Your land” refers to man’s basic nature, his instinctive drives. “Your birthplace” to the emotions that are aroused by his thoughts,3 and “your father’s house” to our intellectual potential.4

A Jew must be prepared to rise above these influences and these tendencies and proceed to “the land which I (G‑d) will show you;” i.e. to give himself over to G‑d’s will which is above his perception and understanding. This expresses the service of Mesirus Nefesh, transcending one’s intellect and giving over one’s will — and the totality of one’s personality to G‑d. One becomes unified with G‑d’s will to the extent that “G‑d’s will becomes one’s own will.”5 Even when a person dedicates every aspect of his character to G‑d’s service, he still remains an individual entity. For him to unite with G‑d, it is necessary that he “go out from his land,” his tendencies and desires, and “go to the land which I will show you.”

The service was epitomized by Avraham. He “recognized his Creator” at the age of three6 and from that time onward rose higher in the service of good, dispensing kindness to others and proclaiming G‑dliness throughout the world. Nevertheless, at the age of 75,7 G‑d told him that this service was not sufficient and that it was necessary for him to “Go out from your land, from your birthplace, and from you father’s house, to the land that I will show you.”

Based on the above, we can resolve the difficulties mentioned originally. Since a person must depart from his original state, it is necessary to describe that state in detail, mentioning the three influences (in ascending order of difficulty) which shape his character. Since his goal is Mesirus Nefesh, giving himself over to G‑d to the extent where he no longer feels his individual will, nor is governed by his on intellect, his destination is only described as “the land which I (G‑d) will show you.” He knows nothing about his destination, nor is it necessary for him to do so.

The above also allows us to understand why this command preceded G‑d’s revelation to Avraham. Only after a person departs from his original state and journeys to “the land which I will show you,” i.e., he units with G‑d’s will, is he a fit vessel to receive the revelation of G‑dliness.

2. The service of leaving one’s “land, birthplace, and father’s house” is not only personal in nature. Rather, it also involves the elevation of one’s family and surrounding environment Thus, we find that Avraham took Sarah, his wife, Lot, his nephew, his property, and “the souls which he made in Charan” together with him on his journey.

Such actions indicate that one has truly departed from his previous state, for nothing with which one shares a connection is left behind. Rather, everything is also elevated and taken to one’s new state. Similarly, the oneness which one establishes with “the land which I will show you,” is greater for, in this manner, it can permeate through the totality of one’s being. This allows one to spread the awareness of G‑dliness throughout the world, unifying them to the extent that G‑d is not only “the G‑d of the heavens” as He was before Avraham journeyed to Eretz Yisrael but “the G‑d of the heavens and the earth,” for through Avraham’s activities, all the travelers who passed through his home became aware of G‑d’s presence.8

Based on the above we can understand the connection of the be­ginning of the parshah with its latter portions which describe in detail the story of Lot, how his shepherds and Avraham’s quarreled, his set­tling in Sodom, the war of the kings, and the miraculous manner in which Avraham saved him from captivity. On the surface, Lot’s story represents the direct opposite of the Mesirus Nefesh displayed by Avraham as Rashi quotes Lot as saying after departing from Avraham: “It is impossible for me to tolerate Avraham or his G‑d.” Similarly, his choice of Sodom as a place to live despite the wicked behavior of its inhabitants reveals the nature of his own character.

Nevertheless, Avraham’s efforts to elevate and refine his surroundings, to take them with him on his journey from his “land,” “birthplace,” and “father’s house,” “to the land that I (G‑d) will show you” also had an effect on Lot. Though Lot remained a wicked person, he still maintained a connection with Avraham. {This connection was so strong that Avraham was willing to risk his life in order to save Lot.}

This connection was not only one-sided. It also had an effect on Lot, refining him to the point that he continued showing hospitality to guests in Sodom despite the danger involved in such an activity. As the parshah relates, the inhabitants of Sodom would punish any act of hospitality harshly. Though he was conscious of this danger Lot was influenced by the training he received in Avraham’s household and eagerly sought to bring guests into his home. This self-sacrifice9 reflects how Lot was affected by Avraham’s service.

Thus, the journey “to the land that I (G‑d) will show you” lifts a person beyond his limits as a human being, a creation, and establishes his identity as a servant of G‑d, willing to do His will — whatever that implies — with a commitment of Mesirus Nefesh.

“The deeds of the fathers are a sign for their descendants.” [The Rabbis explain that this implies that our ancestors’ deeds endow us with the potential to follow in their footsteps.] Thus, Avraham’s settling in Eretz Yisrael made that land an eternal inheritance for his descendants. Because of his acts, every Jew in any era possesses a portion in Eretz Yisrael.

Similarly, Avraham’s spiritual service served as a preparation for the service of his descendants. Thus, his journey from his “land,” “birthplace,” and “father’s house,” is a source for every Jew to serve G‑d with Mesirus Nefesh. Although a Jew lives within the limits of worldly existence, he can depart from his individual existence — even if that existence involves holy matters — and give himself over entirely to G‑d’s will, devoting himself to transforming the world into a dwelling for G‑d.

3. The above also clarifies the connection between the command for Avraham’s journey given at the beginning of the parshah and the conclusion of the parshah which describes his circumcision. The circumcision is a “covenant” reflecting the unity between Avraham (and through him, his descendants) and G‑d. This unity is so complete that it is reflected in a sign on our actual flesh. It is the only mitzvah before the giving of the Torah that effected the physical nature of the world. It was through the fulfillment of this mitzvah that Avraham became “perfect.”

Furthermore, this covenant was established with the help of G‑d, Himself. Our Sages relate that Avraham was afraid to carry out the circumcision and G‑d helped him, “extending His hand and holding the knife together with him.” Thus, he and G‑d became partners in the fulfillment of the mitzvah.10 This partnership demonstrated the complete nature of the union with G‑d and His will, with that union being reflected in Avraham’s physical being. The connection between the mitzvah and Avraham’s physical being is further emphasized by the physical pain the circumcision caused.

[On the surface, it is difficult to understand: Why is the mitzvah of circumcision connected with pain? Also, in particular, in regard to Avraham, Avraham as a master of his senses and had control over his feelings. If so, why did he feel pain over the circumcision? On the contrary, since this was the first mitzvah which G‑d actually commanded him to fulfill, because this mitzvah effected his physical being itself and allowed him to reach “perfection,” he should have been so happy to perform the mitzvah that he felt no pain at all.11

The explanation of the concept is: Since circumcision establishes a covenant with G‑d in our actual flesh, the covenant must be forged in a manner that reflects the nature of our flesh. Since, by nature, we feel pain when our flesh is cut, that pain must be felt in connection with the fulfillment of this mitzvah.

Thus, Avraham would not have felt any pain over the circumcision. On the contrary, he would have been happy to fulfill G‑d’s will. He, however, had departed from his own personal nature and given himself over entirely to the fulfillment of G‑d’s will. Accordingly, since G‑d desired that this mitzvah be carried out in a manner that effects our actual flesh, Avraham let himself experience the feelings that the circumcision would naturally bring.]

The complete union with G‑d that Avraham established through the circumcision is transmitted to all his descendants, allowing them to establish a complete connection with Him, a connection that effects even their physical beings.

On this basis, we can explain the connection between the three Torah portions, Noach, Lech Lecha, and Vayeira. Parshas Noach describes the flood which came to purify the world. After its completion, Noach saw a “new world,” a world that had been refined and elevated to a higher level.12 This served as a preparatory step for G‑d’s command to Avraham to leave his home, i.e., to rise above the limits of worldliness and go to, “the land which I will show you,” i.e., to commit himself to G‑d’s service with Mesirus Nefesh (Parshas Lech Lecha). This, in turn, brings about “And G‑d revealed Himself to Avraham” (Parshas Vayeira), the ultimate oneness with G‑d, a unity which reflects the revelation of the giving of the Torah and the Messianic era.13

4. The above also relates to the month of MarCheshvan, the month which is characterized by a transition from Tishrei, a month that is “filled with festivals,” to the day to day routines of life, “And Yaakov went on his way.” This is also related to the service of Lech Lecha, leaving one’s previous level (even if it was involved with a service in the realm of holiness) and setting out on a new path of service with Mesirus Nefesh. In this manner, “his way,” the individual matters of a Jew, become unified with “G‑d’s way,” “the land which I will show you.”14

In particular, greater potential for such service is granted this year, תש"נ, “a year of miracles.” This year each Jew is given special powers to rise above the natural order. Furthermore, he has the potential to elevate his family and his surrounding environment15 to a higher plane as well.

The above is connected with two practical directives which will lift our service to a higher level:

To gather together every Shabbos to study Torah communally: As mentioned previously, it is appropriate that in every community where Jews live, they should gather together on Shabbos to study Torah, both Nigleh and Pnimiyus HaTorah, and make good resolutions concerning their service in Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness. In particular, at this time, it is appropriate to take on resolutions regarding the needs of the community.

In order to unite all the different communities together, it is appropriate that, in addition to the established Torah classes, every community should join together in the study of a single subject. This study should center on the weekly Torah portion, studying at least several lines as they are interpreted by one commentary in the realm of Nigleh and one commentary in the realm of Pnimiyus HaTorah, Chassidus.16 In the realm of Chassidus, to save everyone the trouble of finding appropriate subject matter, it is suggested to study the discourses of the Tzemach Tzedek in the series Or HaTorah which includes explanations of many of the verses from the weekly Torah portions including the first and final verses which are often regarded with special appreciation by Torah students.

b) Gifts to tzedakah — Giving tzedakah is one of the most important mitzvos in the Torah, indeed, it is “equal to all the mitzvos.” In particular, it is important in this era directly before the Mashiach’s coming. To stress the importance of increasing one’s gifts to tzedakah this year, it is appropriate that every director of an educational institution should distribute money — even a penny is sufficient — to each of the students and each of the employees for them to give to tzedakah. This will serve as an example to motivate the students to give tzedakah, adding to the amount they were given with their own money. This should be done at least once a week, preferably on Fridays before the students depart for Shabbos.17

This practice should also be followed in all Jewish organizations and institutions. The director of the institution should distribute money to be given to tzedakah to all of the employees at least once a week. Similarly, this practice should be followed in organizations and institutions that involve gentiles since tzedakah is necessary for “the settled nature of the world.” (Accordingly, some authorities consider it one of the seven universal laws given to Noach and his descendants.) In particular, this applies in America, where tzedakah is one of the pillars of the country. The above points should be publicized wherever possible. Surely, the suggestions will be accepted and bring greater success than that which was originally conceived.

May our efforts in Lech Lecha — going out from our previous position with mesirus nefesh — bring about the era when G‑d will take us “to the land which I will show you,” Eretz Yisrael, with the coming of Mashiach.