The Real Test of Lech Lecha

We all know that HaShem’s
summons to Avraham Avinu to leave everything behind and travel to “the land that
I will show you” was one of the great trials of the founding father of Judaism.
But it is not at all clear why it should be considered a trial, a nisayon, at
all.

What was the nisayon? When Avraham heard the call, “Lech
lecha
,” there was no doubt in the prophet’s mind that it was indeed G-d that
was speaking to him. Nor was there any doubt that the promise that the journey
would be for his benefit would be kept. There was no question that G-d would
keep His word. Why shouldn’t Avraham respond unhesitatingly to the Divine
command?

Another question: It says that Avraham went with Lot. Then it
says again that he took Sarah his wife and Lot his nephew, and they went to the
land of Canaan. It seems redundant. How many times does it have to say that they
went?

The nisayon here wasn’t in making the geographic move to
Israel. Rather, it was in leaving home. HaShem said to Avraham, in effect, “I
don’t want you just to change your geographic location, and then be the same
person there. The reason I want you to move is in order to develop into a
different kind of person. I want you to separate yourself from all the ideology,
the outlook of chutz l’aretz . In chutz l’aretz, the environment is conducive to
certain values, certain standards. I want you to leave all of that behind. I
don’t want you just to take all this baggage with you to Canaan. “Go to the land
that I will show you.” There I will guide you and give you a direction, a
mission in life, that will replace what you have had until now.

It’s said that it’s easy to take the yid out of golus, but
it’s very hard to take golus out of the yid. But that’s the purpose of Eretz
Yisrael. Eretz Yisrael is called a land that lacks nothing. You don’t need to
take with you all the material and ideological baggage from America or South
Africa or France. Some people, before they make aliyah, spend time finding where
they can get the cheapest Hellman’s mayonnaise or Skippy peanut butter to take
with them, because these are things they cannot live without. So how can the
Torah say that this is a land that lacks for nothing, when these staples of life
are missing?

The truth is that Eretz Yisrael has everything—everything,
that is, that anybody needs to develop into the person that HaShem wants him to
develop into. And if something is missing here, maybe that’s because it’s not
needed. So if Hellman’s or Skippy’s is unavailable, maybe that’s because it’s
not a necessity, and therefore not a lack.

And that applies to other, more serious, things. I remember
when I first came here, and I realized that after eighth grade in most yeshiva
katanas there are no secular studies. That means that by the eighth grade, my
children are going to finish their secular education. What are they going to do
with their lives? I didn’t expect my kids to go to college. I didn’t go to
college. But finish high school? That was basic to me. They wouldn’t be able to
read English. I wrote a book in English. My kids wouldn’t be able to read it.
For me this was a nisayon. It seemed to me at the time that in Eretz Yisrael
there was a lack of an important kind of education for my children. In the end,
some of my kids advanced beyond eighth grade, some didn’t; but we worked it out
successfully.

Moving to Eretz Yisrael requires a change of perceptions.
True, Avraham had an ironclad guarantee from HaShem that the move would be for
his own good; but he had to adjust to his new life, and change his perceptions
of what is desirable and what is needed in life in order to appreciate and enjoy
what HaShem was providing for him in the Land. Therein lay the nisayon.

That explains the redundancy in the text, as well. Certainly,
Sarah, Lot and their followers went with Avraham—physically. But intellectually,
emotionally, there was a great change that they had to undergo along with
Avraham. They had to change their way of relating to the world. That amounted to
a second departure, and is therefore recorded in the text.

It says in the posuk, “vayikach.” “He took them.”
Vayikach
can mean a physical taking, it can also mean taking with words.
Avraham had to take them with words. He had to persuade them to leave their
homes; he had to explain to them that they were coming to a different kind of
land—a land that lacks nothing.