By Rabbi Dovid Rifkind
Challenge From Within
In the beginning of this week's
parsha, Avraham Avinu is presented with the third of his ten tests
of faith from Hashem.
"Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives' place
and from your father's house to the land that I will show you."
Avraham is told to leave his homeland and travel without knowing
his eventual destination. On the surface, it is difficult to understand
the nature of this test. Avraham is told, "Go for yourself,"
and Rashi explains this to mean - go for your pleasure and for your
benefit. As the Torah then goes on to say, "and I will make
of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great."
(12:2) If indeed Avraham was promised great glory and riches in
his new destination, what great show of faith did he exhibit in
leaving his homeland? It is not out of the ordinary for one to uproot
himself and his family for the promise of riches somewhere else.
Perhaps the answer can be found in the wording of Hashem's commandment
to Avraham. He was told to leave his land, his relative's place,
and his father's house. Seemingly, the order is backwards. Wouldn't
he have first left his father's house, then his relatives and lastly
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh answers this question by saying that
the Torah is listing what Avraham was told to do in order of severity.
The fact that he had to leave his homeland was not as difficult
as the fact that he had to leave his relatives and leaving his relatives
was less of a challenge than leaving behind his father's house.
Avraham was not only being told to physically leave his land,
but to disconnect from his past. Because the influence his father's
house had on him was certainly much greater than that of his relatives
or of his homeland, the true test was to see whether he could internally
leave behind his upbringing.
In a similar vein, Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, zt"l was known
to comment regarding the tendency of American yeshiva students to
go abroad for several years of study in yeshivos in Israel, "It's
easy to get the bachur out of America. What is difficult is getting
America out of the bachur."
This was Avraham Avinu's test and this is the test we grapple
with daily - trying to live in America, yet realizing that we are
not, first and foremost, Americans.
May we be zocheh that the merit of Avrahom Avinu successfully
meeting his challenges hold us in good stead.
Rabbi Rifkind, an
alumnus of the Chicago Community Kollel, is a Rebbe at the Arie Crown
Hebrew Day School. He learns second seder daily with the
is coordinated by Rabbi Zvi Feiner.
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