Lech Lecha - Go for Yourself

by Rebbitzen Malkah

As we journey through Parashat Lech Lecha, we are introduced to a covenant that will set Avraham and the Jewish people on a course destined for blessing, salvation, and eventually restoration. We witness the blessing of Avraham and the creation of a covenant which is to stand for all time; a covenant which, by its very nature, will allow Avraham to be a conduit of blessing for all who come into his presence. The manner in which this covenant is revealed to Avraham three times and also sealed presents us with a beautiful picture of how when Hashem communicated with Avraham on a deeply personal level, Avraham became so divinely inspired that every part of his being would be profoundly committed for his entire life This theme of mirroring the Divine Presence to others through covenantal blessing began with Avraham and continues today through us. As heirs of the covenantal blessing procured through our Messiah Yeshua, we have the opportunity to infuse holiness into those around us by tapping into the very essence of the Abrahamic Covenant and what it truly means to know our purpose.

As the parasha begins, Avraham receives the divine call and promise for the first time:

"Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing." (The Chumash - The Stone Edition, Bereishis/Genesis 12:1-2)

This would seem to be an offer which Avraham has no reason to refuse; clearly Hashem guarantees him nothing less than absolute security, a hopeful future, and the promise that his name will become great. Initially it is not certain how deeply Avraham connects to this covenant, but we know that his response is faithful and obedient. Not only does he leave everything that is familiar, he leaves the safety of his own country with his wife and nephew for a divine plan greater than himself. Hashem appeals to the nature of man by pledging gifts of human wealth and prosperity - an initial carrot corresponding to the more basic nefesh (soul) of man.

The second time that Hashem speaks to and reassures Avraham of the covenant is after Lot and Avraham decide to go separate ways. Avraham has already endured some struggles in the land and even with his own nephew, Lot. While it has been some time since Avraham received the divine call, it is obvious from the events that Hashem sees reason to reaffirm to him that through all his struggles and journeys, all that Hashem has promised him will indeed come true.
"Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward. For all the land that you see, to you will I give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted." (The Chumash - The Stone Edition, Bereishis/Genesis 12:1-2)

Hashem uses the land as a visual aid to embed the blessing into Avraham's mind. For all the difficulties he has just had in the land, Hashem's repetition of the blessing has a more realistic and focused effect. Lofty ideas about making one's name great, creating a great nation and assuring one that truly he/she is to be a blessing can sometimes seem surreal and unattainable. Hashem lovingly shows Avraham that this land is indeed the place where all of these blessings will play themselves out. In concrete terms of cardinal directions, Avraham is told to look and know that all that he sees will be given forever to all his generations. Hashem slowly brings the covenant down to a more earthly level where Avraham resides to allow for Avraham and the covenant to begin to coalesce. Avraham can relate to the dust of the earth - a plentiful and abundant material found all around him wherever he sojourns. As he stands with his feet immersed in the sand, he feels physically surrounded by that which he cannot see - his future descendants. The covenant begins its descent into the earthly realm, almost a reversal of the simsum (Hashem's withdrawal from man's space so he may exist), so that Hashem may begin to dwell in men and make his name known on the earth for future salvation.

The third time that Hashem speaks to Avraham is after his battle and victory over Sodom. Feeling as if his divine blessings might be exhausted and in despair that his situation regarding descendants might not change, Avraham hears the voice of Hashem yet again regarding the promise which He made to Avraham.
"That one will not inherit you. Only him that shall come forth from within you shall inherit you." And He took him outside, and said, "Gaze, now, toward the Heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them!" And He said to him, "So shall your offspring be!" And he trusted in Hashem, and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.

(The Chumash - The Stone Edition, Bereishis/Genesis 15:4-6)

The first two times Hashem speaks to Avraham of His plans for him and his descendants, Avraham is quick to obey and act. However, the last time when Avraham is reassured, he behaves differently, for it says, "And he trusted in Hashem." After Avraham is instructed to gaze up into the heavens to see how numerous his descendants will be, the faith of his youth is reactivated; he recalls when he contemplated the heavens and the cause of the heavenly bodies' orbits. Previously, Avraham was reassured by the landscape and sand surrounding his feet - a connection and affirmation of blessing in an earthly, tangible way. However, the stars represent that which is awe-inspiring, that which is eternal and out of reach, heavenly and filled with wonder. Each descendant would be a light of varying magnitude and an eternal reminder of Hashem fulfilling his promise. His descendants would continue to bless generations after them, even when they no longer existed; for just as the light from a star which has gone out still continues to show light throughout the galaxy, so would his descendants be.

Hashem affirms with the promise with Avraham by first meeting him in his homeland and then the sand, a place which was at Avraham's level upon the earth. But as Avraham's faithfulness continued, Hashem desired his focus to be elevated and more fitting to the magnitude and holiness of the covenant.  His descendants would need to be divinely connected and for that Avraham's gaze needed to be upward. His generations would be in a place where Hashem would be ever mindful of their existence and a reminder to all who would see them that the promise to Avraham was of heavenly origin. Through this interaction we see a ramping up in the way Hashem wishes to appeal to Avraham's soul - for in elevating his eyes he was also elevating his soul.

This concept of heaven and earth colliding is expanded in the ratification of the covenant. Rashi explains that it was the custom in those times for two people who wished to pledge everlasting friendship and devotion to each other to participate in a ceremony in which they passed together between the divided halves of a slaughtered animal. Just as two halves are parts of a single creature, so the people passing through these parts, though two different people, are to be thought of as being a unified creature. As Hashem participates in what is considered a traditional, earthly way of sealing a covenant with the passing of a smoky furnace and fire between the halved pieces of three heifers, three goats, three rams, and a whole turtledove and dove, we see Heaven and Earth joining together forever in a boundless contract through the Shechinah (Divine Presence) and Man. In effect, this ratified the covenant with Avraham in a loving manner and proved to Avraham that he was truly to be bound up in everlasting friendship with the Creator of the World. This final encounter would not only give Avraham the ability to withstand all future tests, but would set the stage for the Messianic drama to begin its fulfillment as promised in Gan Eden.  For us today, this covenant serves as a model for the renewed covenant in which G-d procures our salvation through Messiah Yeshua. Like Avraham, who was chosen not by merit, we have received a circumcision of the heart through the covenant inscribed by Messiah Yeshua.

In pondering the effect of Avraham's first experiences with the Master of the Universe, we find that through each encounter, he develops a heightened sense of awareness and trust in his creator. While he begins in faith and obedience to the divine command, he becomes more willing and able due to the greater connection that he gains by drawing his eye to a higher level of existence. He fathoms the enormity of what lies before him. Through the act of seeking out the heavens, he turns not only his mind but also his soul to a promise which extends far beyond the ends of the earth. As we contemplate Messiah Yeshua and the even greater expanse to which he lifted his eyes, may we realize that with the same love and fervor did he commit to a covenant of blessing for us so that we, too, might be heirs to all that Hashem promised to Avraham. May we open our tents in all directions and instill in those around us divine inspiration and purpose.

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