Parashat Lech Lecha speaks entirely about Abraham, the first Jew, and G‑d's commands to him. Therefore, it is an archetypal portion that affects our entire year. Similarly, it is a happy portion, more than rectifying the calamities recounted last week in parashat Noah. It therefore behooves us, no matter what the circumstances, to make a special effort this week at getting into Shabbat and at being happy.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch reveals a secret. From the moment that the Holy One Blessed Be He said to our forefather Abraham, "Go out from your land" and further where the Torah recounts, "…and Abram traveled back and forth in the Negev", the secret of birurim, "extracting" began. This refers to the common purpose each of us shares to extract the spark of G‑dliness hidden in exile within every physical thing. Each person is sent to where those sparks that are supposed to be extracted by him are waiting…

Every move a person makes, every experience or trial one faces, is according to divine direction. Each person is sent to where those sparks that are supposed to be extracted by him are waiting. The righteous, who have a special ability to see through the facade of the world, merit to see where their sparks are found and go there on their own. For the rest of us, the Almighty is the guide. He who is the Cause of all the causes, and the Reason behind all the reasons, contours reality, to cause the individual to arrive at that place he is needed to fulfill his task.

It is incumbent on parents to not only raise their children properly but to try their best to provide for their future. It is common, even among those that are religiously observant, to put aside not only their physical needs but their spiritual development for the sake of their children. Unfortunately, it is also common that often a person spends their entire life in that mode and ignores much of what G‑d has required of them personally. The children grow up, join the parents in their work efforts, and yet the parents continue, not changing their behavior in the slightest. This is one of the messages of last week's portion, that begins with the words, "These are the descendants of Noah, Noah…."(Gen. 6:9) The parents, instead of working to provide for their offspring physically and spiritually, reveal by their actions that they are truly working only for themselves.

As the first Jew, G‑d commanded Abraham not to act that way. The Shelah interprets the opening words of the parasha, "Lech lecha…", as "Go and conquer the way for your children". Abraham's first journey led him and Sara outside of Israel to Egypt, as an indication and future help for their children, the Jewish people. Abraham opened the way not only physically, but spiritually for his children. The bottom line is to ask ourselves, is what we are doing for our children's sake, or is it really for our sake? And change our behavior accordingly. Do you think things were easy for Abraham…?

Do you think things were easy for Abraham? Let us not have any illusions. When the Mishna (Avot, 5:3) says that Abraham was put through 10 trials, we are not talking about holding back a temper tantrum, or not eating a second chocolate donut. Just as the Almighty wanted to test Abraham, so we as his descendants are also being tested. And just as Abraham accepted the yoke with happiness, we have to also find our own ways to deal with our problems.

There is a saying from the Breslever Chasidim that no matter how difficult things are, always respond to the question "How are things?" with the answer "Baruch Hashem, - great!" A person is always led by the way he is going. If things are terrible, and we say "terrible", G‑d looks down on us and says, "If you think this is terrible, I'll show you what's really terrible." If, on the other hand, a person answers that things are great, G‑d will look down and say, "If you think this is great, let me really show you what is great!"

There is a story about Rebbe Yechiel Michal, who once had a guest in his home who saw the Rebbetzin crying. Afterward, he came into Rebbe Michal and saw that his face was shining with happiness. When asked what was going on, Rebbe Michal answered like this, "She has her reason for crying, I have my reason for being happy. She is crying because she sees herself dependent on a shlamazal [ed. derogatory term] like me. Nevertheless, I am happy because I know I am dependent on He who spoke and created the world."

There were once two Chasidim; one was a master of crying, and the other, a master of happiness. Reb Abraham Ber explained their behavior like this: The first meditates about where the soul was in the height of spiritual heights and where the soul has now fallen in this world - and falls into depression. The second contemplates where the soul is now, in this lowly world, and compares it to where it will be in the Future, with all the accompanying revelations of the World to Come; he ackowledges that all is dependent on our behavior now, and he automatically wells up with joy. Reb Abraham Ber closed by saying that the master of happiness is spiritually greater.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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