In keeping with our theme for this year — finding inspiration in every week’s Torah portion regarding the cardinal commandment to love our fellow man — we look this week at Hashem’s commandment to Abram (later to become Abraham) to leave his native land and his father’s house and go to the Land that Hashem will show him.
What is intriguing is that in “Lech Lecha”, the words that identify this portion, God is literally saying to Abram, ‘Go for yourself’ meaning ‘Go for your own sake…’ He followed this command with the promise that Abraham’s descendants would be a source of blessing to the entire world: “And I will bless those who bless you and him who curses you I will curse; and in you will all the families of the earth be blessed.”
It sounds at first glance as though Abraham is being sent for the benefit of the world, rather than ‘for his own sake’. Quite the opposite.
Abram’s choice to follow God’s command was the strategic decision of his life. Had he not followed, he would not be the Patriarch that he is, the Father of many nations that he is, the progenitor of the chosen people that He is. Had he chosen to ignore God’s call, Abram would have utterly failed to fulfill the destiny for which he was born and the repercussions would have been devastating for millions upon millions of people throughout the generations. This scenario underscores a vital issue that touches every one of us.
Every human being is born with a destiny bigger than him/her self. To choose God’s way and will for your life is first and foremost the highest ‘gift’ you give yourself; i.e., the opportunity to fulfill the purpose for which you were created. Any lasting good that you or I can do for others is predicated on this critical choice. “Go for your own sake…” means that in choosing to follow God’s call, Abram embraced and acted upon this truth: Fulfilling the purpose for which I was created and put on this earth is more important than my historical lineage, more important than my geographical homeland, more important than my occupation or ‘career’, more important even than upholding my parents’ traditions when those traditions and beliefs are contrary to the truth.
It did not mean that Abraham cared little for his father and mother, for his family; it meant that he loved God more — and that he had a healthy self-respect that demanded he commit himself to fulfill his destiny, even in the face of opposition and uncertainty.
You cannot love your neighbor unless you first love yourself enough to make right choices. In essence, God’s challenge to Abraham was this: I want to use you, Abraham, to bless the entire world in every generation to come. For Me to do so, however, requires that you make the vital decision to follow My path for your life. Will you do it? Selah…..
A bit later in the Torah portion we read that there was strife between Abraham’s herdsmen and those of his nephew, Lot. Lot’s workers, with Lot’s agreement, were trespassing on land belonging to the Canaanites and the Perizzites who were living in the Land at that time. This action could easily have precipitated a major conflict.
Abram wanted peace and though he was the Elder and the one to whom God had promised the Land, and therefore would have been well within his rights to dictate the terms, he chose the path of humility. “So Abram said to Lot, ‘Please let there be no strife between me and you and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen for we are brothers. Is not all the Land before you? Please, separate from me. If you go left, then I will go right, and if you go right,then I will go left.’ “
There are many things we can learn from this exchange. Among those lessons is this: clearly, Abram ascribed more value to his relationship with his nephew than to his position of preeminence. Abram would have been well within his rights to choose and legislate to his nephew where he could take his flocks and his workers. But that is not the approach he chose.
Abram believed God’s promise; he felt no need to fight for what God had already promised him. He felt no need to exert any superiority. He was far more concerned with achieving peace.
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself…’ In his interactions with Lot, Abram left us a powerful example not only of how to show love and respect towards your fellow man, but also how humility is the path to greatness. The Elder set an example that has reverberated through the ages.
In Tune with Torah this week: no one truly fulfills their personal destiny by trampling on others or clawing their way past those around them. The path of peace, humility and respect for others is the surest, if not the quickest, way to becoming the person you were created to be.