Friday, October 15, 2010
Lech Lecha 5634 Second Ma'amar
Many times during the course of our lives we are inspired. We reach a new level of awareness. We have Aha! moments at which time doubt and uncertainty are replaced by clarity and a sense of meaningfulness. As a matter of course, the inspiration is forgotten over time, the clear vision may not last and we slide from our new level of awareness. These inspirations are crucial in our quest to come close to God and accomplish our life missions. What can we do to retain them and live by them?
The Sfas Emes learns an answer from the first Rashi of this week's parsha. At the beginning of the parsha God tells Avraham Avinu to leave his homeland and family, and all the comforts implied by that for an unknown place. Could God be telling him to begin living a monastic life, separated from the materialism of this world? The answer is found in the words at the beginning of the parsha, "... לֶךְ־לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ .../… Go for yourself from your land …" (Breishis 12:1) The word "לְךָ/for yourself" seems to be extraneous. Why is it there? Rashi explains that "for yourself" implies "for your own benefit". God is telling Avraham that even though he is to leave his homeland and family for the unknown, it is not because God wants him to lead a monastic life. He is to leave for his own benefit.
How can leaving comfort for discomfort be for his own benefit? The answer depends on how we define "his own benefit". The ultimate benefit a person can attain is experiencing closeness with God. God is teaching Avraham how to live in this world and constantly experience that closeness. How?
Leaving everything that is familiar for the unknown requires a remarkable level of trust in God. God tells Avraham, though, that the point of this test is not only to have the faith to listen, but to internalize that faith. "לֶךְ/Go" requires faith. "לְךָ/for yourself" implies internalizing that achievement and applying it to all the activities of everyday life. He thus lives with the inspiration, essentially the closeness to God.
This is the meaning of the pasuk, "וְהַחַיּוֹת רָצוֹא וָשׁוֹב .../And the living creatures (a type of angel) ran forth and returned …" (Yechezkeil 1:14) Running forth represents reaching a new height in serving God. Returning means internalizing that new level by bringing it back to everyday life so that it affects all of one's activities.
A one time inspired act is an achievement. Internalizing the inspiration and applying it on a daily basis causes it to last.
This idea provides the answer to another question. The Torah tells us that Avraham Avinu took his wife and entire household with him. But God said nothing of taking his wife and household. How did he know to take them with him? The answer, the Sfas Emes teaches us, is that Avraham Avinu understood from "לְךָ/for yourself", that this was more than a test of faith. It was also a test to see if he would be able to apply the high level to his everyday actions dealing with his wife and household. He knew therefore, that he was supposed to take his entire household with him so that he could apply the inspiration to his daily life.
May we merit internalizing our inspirations and applying them to our daily lives.