For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"And G‑d said to Avram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. " (Gen. 12:1)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Go...for your benefit and for your good...

Rashi: "Go forth"
lit. go for you, for your benefit and for your good; there I will make you into a great nation, but here, you will not merit to have children. Moreover, I will make your character known in the world.  

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: "Go forth"
G‑d hinted to both exiles, for Israel would "go" into exile twice. [The two words "Lech lecha/Go forth" are spelled the same and can be voweled as if to mean 'Go, Go!" implying 2 goings.] The 2 exiles are those that occurred at the destructions of the First and Second Temples. Alternatively, G‑d hinted that after 50 (the gematria of;‘lech) generations, Abraham's descendants would be exiled, in the days of Zedekiah.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ohr HaHayyim: "and from your birthplace"
The lesson here is that living in a place surrounded by lions is preferable to living in a place surrounded by sinners, even though the latter appears secure.

Maggid Mesharim: The purpose of the soul descending to this world is to repair and to perfect the neshamah [level of the soul]. Thus, the first time it incarnates, the recipient merits the aspect of nefesh, the second time, the level of ruach, and the third time, the aspect of neshamah. These 3 levels are hinted to at the verse: "from your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father's house." What does it mean, "I will make you a great nation"?
...every person must reincarnate at least 3 times...
The secret of the matter is that every person must reincarnate at least 3 times to receive the levels of nefesh, ruach and neshamah. For like a plant that is uprooted in order to be planted elsewhere, that is the way it grows and flourishes. So too with man. The first time he comes to the world, he is not expert enough in heavenly or worldly matters. The second time he knows more. The third time he understands the matters of this world well and takes greater care in heavenly matters.

This refers to what G‑d said to Abraham: "from your land" means from the level of your nefesh, "and from your birthplace" means from the aspect of ruach which brings forth the birth of nefesh, and "from your father's house" hints to neshamah which is called "your father's house" since everything derives from there. The 3 acts in the verse "I will make you into a great nation, and bless you, and make your name great " (Ibid. 12:2) correspond to the three reincarnations.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Shelach 166:
The head of the Yeshivah [in Heaven] opened the discussion saying, "Now G‑d said to Abram, 'Get you out of your country...'". That is because the light shone to him in this manner. Since he has no merit in this place, let him go and take himself to another place, and be worthy there. If a block of wood is kindled and yet the fire does not catch on and illuminate in it, let them splinter it until the fire catches on and it blazes.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
Go for it, for yourself! Listening to the inner voice will usually lead us in the straight path. It is when we ignore this voice, then trouble starts. Dreams too are important to kick around, for as the Talmud says "an uninterpreted dream is like an unread letter."
Everything depends on this crucial moment of listening, and then acting, making a first move. Not rationalizing away the voice too is important, kind of like Scrooge in the Dickens story trying to sweep away that he is hearing voices by attributing it to some poorly digested dinner.
Abraham heard the voice, and then he did something. He left his land, his birthplace, his father's house. A truly radical thing to do at the time.

Seek G‑d where He can be found...

How can we ascertain the veracity of the voice — perhaps it is some other complex trying to take the main stage? Simple: put G‑d in the picture. Seek G‑d where He can be found: through prayer, through Torah, through mitzvot. Then stop

look inside, and listen.
A tried and true technique is known as the proverbial "Dream Question." Before sleep, write the question on piece of paper and put it under your pillow. Pray to G‑d for an answer. When you wake up, first things first think about the question. Voila! For when you are still in the near sleep mode, you are open to more suggestive answers.
Perhaps "lech lecha" could also mean "go into yourself": go into a contemplative state outside the restraints of your physical place, outside the restraints of the emotional attachment of your birthplace, outside the control of familial influence.

See – there are certain times when it is kosher to be a member of the "Me Generation." That is when we look inside for an answer, which should ideally be a benefit to others too.

Go! You can go your own way, and if you keep G‑d in the picture, you can be assured that your way is His way, too.

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.