Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn of Lubavitch used to say, "Lech Lecha is a truly happy portion. Day by day we are living with Abraham, the first person to dedicate his life to make known the existence of G‑d. Abraham caused every single Jew to inherit this ability to dedicate themselves to the Torah and its commandments."

One reason we can identify with the happiness of this week's portion is that Abraham's journey parallels the journey each of us follows in our lives. Just as G‑d told Abraham, "Lech lecha - go to yourself", i.e. to your source, each of us is also always trying to grow spiritually, even if sometimes we are not aware of it.

Rabbi Shimon Vartimeer was walking in Vienna when he met the local governor with whom he was acquainted. "Where are you going?" the governor asked. Rabbi Shimon answered, "I do not know". The governor became angry and ordered that Rabbi Shimon be imprisoned. When the govener calmed down, he had the rabbi brought before him. "Why did you answer me so foolishly?" he asked Rabbi Shimon. "My master," Rabbi Shimon replied, "the opposite is true! I answered you very carefully. You did not ask me where I wanted to go. Had you, I would have answered 'to my factory'. Rather you asked me where was I going. I answered in truth: 'I do not know'. And we see it was the truth! I wanted to go to my factory, and in the end I went to prison!" However much we try to stay in control of our journey in life - hang loose…

We learn from this that however much we try to stay in control of our journey in life - hang loose; the Almighty has His own plans. Nevertheless, wherever G‑d places us, we must do our utmost to elevate that location, situation, and ourselves!

The name of this week's parasha - "Lech Lecha" - literally "Go to yourself", is an overall reference to one's constant ascent from lower to higher spiritual levels as a person fulfills his purpose in the world. The beginning of the portion deals with Abraham going up from Haran to Canaan, the future Israel; also, when he reached the Holy Land he slowly came closer to Jerusalem where the Temple would be built. But the portion continues with Abraham descending to Egypt, the spiritual nadir of the world, and even worse - his wife being kidnapped by Pharoah! How can this be considered constantly going to a higher level? The Ramban made famous the principle that applies to this and all Torah portions that describe our forefathers and their activities: "The actions of the (fore)fathers are an indication to their children."

Abraham's descent into Egypt anticipated the future exile to Egypt by his descendants. Similarly, Abraham's ascent from Egypt, "weighed down with livestock, silver and gold", forged the path for Jewish people's redemption from Egypt to also include "great wealth". Even Pharoh's inability to touch Sara while she was his captive resulted in the impossibility of the Egyptians' controlling the Jewish women during the exile there. Ultimately, the purpose of Abraham's descent to Egypt was for the much greater ascent of his descendants that came afterwards.

Hidden in the ostensibly tragic circumstances of his descent to Egypt was the beginning of the incomparable elevation to come. The Zohar (81a) explains that Abraham's exalted spiritual status allowed him to elevate the G‑dly sparks that were hidden in the world within the most seemingly spiritually void places such as Egypt. Abraham's high level also protected him, and he left Egypt spiritually unscathed. Abraham's descent to Egypt was to elevate the multitude of sparks hidden there. This work he also left for his descendants to complete, which they did, finishing the process with their redemption. So too, we, the final generation of this exile, are meant to elevate our environment, preparing it for the era of Mashiach. Connect the soul that is in your body to your soul-root that is on high…

The inner dimension of these words, "Go to yourself…" is: connect the soul that is in your body to your soul-root that is on high and always connected to G‑d. The root of the soul above isn't hampered by the world. It constantly sees G‑dliness revealed. Thus, the end of the verse, "...to the land that I will show you". When we connect the lower part of our soul to its higher part through our involvement in Torah and mitzvot, we also then attain the ability to see G‑dliness in this world! The great Kabbalist of Safed, Isaac Luria (the Arizal), said that such vision is even greater than seeing Elijah the prophet!

The word "land" can also refer to a state of being that is lowly, just as land is something that is always walked upon. A Jew's lowliness can be that he, the chosen of the creations, actually lowers himself from his high level to take mundane pleasure in the physical world and its illusions. In contrast, "land" can refer to the holy aspect of lowliness; we can nullify our own desires in order to fulfill G‑d's Will through doing His commandments. This is also the meaning of "Go to yourself from your land". It is a command to leave the lower level of "land", the one preoccupied with the world and its pleasures, to attain the higher "land" of holiness. To each of us, the lesson is crucial: while we struggle in doubt over our ability to overcome the ever growing obstacles in the darkness of this exile, we have to remember that the descent and the darkness is only from an external, superficial view. The inner dimension is that the descent is actually a preparation for the much greater elevation that will come in the future.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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