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G-d said to Abram: 'Go for yourself… to the land that I shall show you'. (12:1)
Rashi stresses that G-d saying lech-lecha - "go for yourself" to Abraham means that it would be for his benefit, for his own good. Abraham would only be able to achieve his potential and carry out his life's work if he moved away from his familiar urban surroundings and became a traveller within unknown territory.
In fact, this idea may be taken further by emphasizing the word lech - go. Going from place to place was a radical change in his way of life: from the advanced and settled urban society of Ur, to the on-the-move Bedouin-style patriarchal extended family, moving from place to place. Unlike Lot, Abraham never settled in one place permanently, nor was he to live in a house again. His home was the tent, generally on the urban fringe.
Abraham's pastoral nomad way of life could have been decreed for the following reason. The Parasha emphasizes G-d's promise to give the Land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants, though only when their current inhabitants would have sinned sufficiently to forfeit their territory (15:16). Abraham's immediate task was to explore the land: "Get up, and travel the length and breadth of this land, for I will give it to you" (13:17). This was for a reason. The more a person travels in any country, the more he or she becomes attached to it, until eventually the land becomes part of the person.
It was this love for the Land that Abraham would have communicated to Isaac, which in turn would have gone through to Jacob and his sons and though the generations of Israelites in Egypt until Moses led them back. That was the purpose of lecha-lecha, lech - spend your time travelling within the land so that it becomes lecha - part of you, you feel it is yours. And that love would be passed though succeeding generations.
It may even be suggested that Patriarchs's getting to know and thus love the Holy Land may have influenced their descendants genetically. Some psychologists argue that our likes and dislikes are determined to a considerable extent by what our ancestors liked and disliked. Maybe that sheds a little light on why today people come to live in Israel and feel that this is where they belong, despite the considerable linguistic, cultural, social, and economic challenges…
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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