In this week's Torah portion, we are introduced to our patriarch, the very
first Jew, Avraham, who by overcoming towering challenges, forged an
intimate connection with Hashem and won for his progeny the eternal
distinction as His chosen people. Hashem bequeathed to Avraham the land of
Israel as a lasting inheritance, a land infused with sanctity with which the
Jewish people are privileged to have an immortal bond.
When Hashem first introduced the promise of Eretz Yisroel to Avraham, He
told him, "Lift up your eyes and see it from the place you are standing, the
north, south, east and west, for this land I have promised to you and your
children." The commentaries point out the interesting choice of words, "see
it from the place that you are standing." It seems as if Avraham stood in
one place, and Hashem swiveled around the whole land of Israel to enable him
to view it from all four directions, without moving his body.
Why did Hashem change the rules of nature to make this miraculous event
occur? We know Hashem performs a miracle only when absolutely necessary. The
commentaries provide different approaches to explain this phenomenon. Some
say it reflects the intense love that Hashem bore Avraham. He did not even
want to trouble him to have to turn around to see all parts of the land, and
rather brought the land to him, so to speak.
Similarly, we find that when King David killed Goliath with a few stones, a
sling and intense faith in Hashem, Goliath fell forward on his face. The
commentaries note that this was not random happenstance. Out of love for his
beloved prophet, Hashem wanted to facilitate the killing of Goliath, making
it easier for David to swiftly decapitate him without having to run from the
fallen giant's feet to his head. Similarly, Hashem's showed his love for
Avraham by facilitating his comprehensive view of Eretz Yisroel.
Other commentaries highlight a different aspect of Hashem's kindness to
Avraham, illustrated by His "turning the land around" for Avraham's benefit.
They note that Avraham was so awestruck when communicating with Hashem, he
was as though paralyzed. He was incapable of movement; even the slight
inclining of the body was beyond him. Hashem had to move the world around to
bring it within his line of vision.
I would venture to suggest another approach to understanding this
phenomenon. The Novi tells us, "seu marom einechem u'reu mi bara eileh; lift
up your eyes and see who created the world." My Rebbe used to ask, "Why do
we need to lift up our eyes? Surely we can see the wonders of our Creator in
a simple blade of glass or in the smallest of creatures. Why do we have to
look up at the stars, the galaxies and the heavenly constellations to
impress on ourselves the wondrous reality of the Creator? He explained that
"lifting our eyes upwards" is not meant merely in a physical sense-it means
take a "heavenly" look upwards, try to see with an exalted vision,
unencumbered by the limitations of the naked eye and other human senses.
Leading scientists perceive the most awesome revelations in creation, but
their vision often remains hobbled, without an appreciation of the Divine
"designer" behind the wonders of the universe. Likewise, the greatest brain
surgeons grapple with one of the most amazing testaments to Hashem's
unfathomable wisdom - the human mind - often failing to grasp what is so
self-evident, that only an omnipotent Creator could form the extraordinary
properties of this magnificent organ.
One needs to lift one's eyes upwards with an exalted look, willing to see
beyond physicality. Only then can one clearly perceive the Divine hand that
lies beneath the exterior veil. Avraham lived on that plane of existence,
seeing his Creator in every aspect of the mundane. Thus, Hashem gifted
Avraham and all his future progeny with the land of Israel. Israel's
spiritual potency can only be accessed by those whose vision is
transcendent. The Divine presence that is concentrated in this land can only
be perceived by those who are spiritually attuned, whose vision is "lifted
Hashem showed Avraham - and to us, his descendants - the key to unlocking
and retaining our connection to Eretz Yisrael. He showed him how to
transcend the physical limitations of human eyesight and perceive the land
in its entirety from all directions-on both the physical and spiritual
levels. We, too, can follow this path, learning how to connect to, and be
nurtured by, the inner sanctity of the land.
I am presently in Jerusalem for the weekend, in preparation for the wedding
of my son, Eli, just three weeks away. As always, it is easy to become
frustrated by the multiple layers of bureaucracy, the foot-dragging and
disorganization that seem to characterize the life here. However, by
'lifting up the eyes,' seeing beyond the exterior, one can truly taste the
Divine delight that can only be experienced in our beloved homeland.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos.