Parshas Lekh Lekha
Dr. Meir Tamari
The commandment to leave his homeland came to Avraham after he had already
begun his journey there, as pointed out by Rashi. Why was it not sufficient
to command him just to leave his fathers house? We may find the answer in
the spherical form of the Earth that hangs in space. Physically when one
object wishes to draw closer to another one and that one rejects it, the
power of these two conflicting forces keeps them apart. The Earth was
created round so that these powers of rejection and attraction are evenly
distributed, and the Earth is hanging in space as it were. This physicality
is reflected in spirituality since this material world is a reflection of
the spiritual world above.
In his commentary on parshat Bereishit, the Or Hachaim, explains that the
Earth, despite its gross materialism has a powerful desire to draw close to
the religiosity of the Heavens; Eretz being derived from ratz, to run after
or to pursue. Other Sages see the Heavens, being unable to tolerate
anything non- spiritual, as constantly rejecting the desire of the Earth.
This rejection applies to the countries of the Nations of the world, whose
spirituality is limited to 'Eretz', from 'ratzon, obligated to obeying the
will of HaShem, and are only capable of achieving the kedushah that flows
from the rejection of materialism. The Land of Israel, however, possesses a
spirituality of its own that urges it to pursue the Heavens as explained by
the Or Hachaim. Through this intrinsic spirituality, in addition to the
aversion to materialism common to all other lands, even the most material
of things acquire an ability to reach HaShem. As long as Avraham remained
outside Eretz Yisrael, he could only achieve the spirituality of the 70
Nations, who would thereby continue to have a connection with him. It would
not be possible for him to severe himself from his 'father's house' and
achieve his own desire to come close to HaShem. Therefore it was necessary
to command him to 'go to the Land that I will show you', even though his
journey had already commenced.
It was only when Avraham entered Eretz Yisrael that G-d revealed Himself to
him. There, through the power of rejection and pursuit that flows from the
two forms of Eretz that exist only there, was it possible for Hashem to
reveal himself to him. Because the Land of Israel possesses this special
and intrinsic desire to reach the holiness of HaShem, that revelation
through prophecy is possible. In contrast there cannot be prophecy in any
other those lands, since they do not run towards achieving Kedushah and
possess only the limited sanctity that flows from Heaven's rejection of
material things. Temporarily, after the destruction of the First Temple,
the Nations of the world had the ability to obscure the special sanctity of
Eretz Yisrael, and clouded over the kedushah, till there was a return of
We know that 'makom-world', 'shanah-time [year]', and nefesh constitute an
entity. Makom is the place able to receive Revelation- Eretz Yisrael-,
shanah is the time that is appropriate to such revelations- Shabbat and
Chagim-, and nefesh is the circumcised Adam (Zohar, Reah). Similarly, there
is body-guf, sechel- intellect and there is nefesh. Eretz Yisrael is the
guf as one enters it with one's whole body and the body is sustained
through its fruits. However, as distinct from the other living creatures
who also receive their food from the Land, only people are able, in
addition, to also receive spiritual revelation in that Land [Perhaps this
lies behind the teshuvah of the Avnei Nezer that one only fulfills the
mitzvah of Yishuv Haaretz if one earns one's living there (Yoreh Deah,
section458, subsection24). Milah refers to nefesh since it is placed in the
source of lusts- "if it is your desire 'nafshoteichem' (Bereishit, 23: 8)
and Shabbat refers to mind or intelligence as it is a day that is total Torah.
All these are found in Avraham, who was perfect in guf, nefesh and seichel,
and possessed Eretz Yisrael, Milah and Shabbat. We learn Avraham's
knowledge and observance of Shabbat from, "and observe my commandments"
(Yuma, 28b). We see that Israel was not taught about techumin on Shabbat at
Marah together with the laws of Shabbat taught there (Shabbat, 87b). The
Avnei Nezer taught that according to Tosaphot carrying from reshut to
reshut is not a change in the material content but only in its form, and
until Matan Torah Israel did not have the seichel to understand a change in
form. Avraham however did and therefore achieved even this aspect of Shabbat.
Avraham bequeathed all these three to his descendants and therefore we find
that every Jew has Shabbat, Milah and Eretz Yisrael. Every place that a
person's heart desires to be in, he in fact is, as we learn from the
Mishnah. "One who recognizes or designates a certain tree or fence and
projects his abode there, it is as though he acquires shvitah there"
(Eruvin, chapter 4, mishnah7). So one who dwells outside Eretz Yisrael but
deeply desires in his heart to be there, it is as though he shares in its
spirituality. One who lives there but has no desire to do so, however, has
nothing of its spirituality.
These three bequests of Avraham enable us to understand the midrash on the
verse, "I will give to you and to your descendants the Land that you dwell
in" (Bereishit 17:8). If they enter Eretz Yisrael they will receive My
Divinity but if they do not enter they will not receive it. If they accept
the Shabbat they will enter the Land and if they observe the Milah they
will enter the Land. If they do not they will not enter the Land of Israel.
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.