In this week’s parsha we learn the story of Avraham’s journey to Eretz Yisrael and the trials and tribulations which he and Sarah go through once they arrive in the Land. The Rambam (Maimonides) calls our forefather Avraham ‘the pillar of the world’ (Laws of Idol Worship, 1:2), he stood up for the truth of faith in one G-d against the entire world at his time, where idol worship was rampant. With Avraham’s light a new era began in the world, after almost 2,000 years of idolatry and immorality. How did Avraham become the pillar of the world? How did he merit to be the first of the three holy patriarchs of the Jewish people?
The first verse of the Torah reading gives us a lot of insight. “Hashem said to Abram, ‘Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” (Chapter 12) Lech Lecha can also be translated as go to yourself. Rebbe Noson of Breslov teaches, based on this verse, that all of your journeys in life need to be to you and only to you, which means to discover the essential point of truth which is who you really are, because the true essence of a person is his neshama (soul). Rebbe Nachman says that when a person says ‘I’ or ‘me’ it means my soul, I am my soul and not my body. The soul of a person is a portion of G-d above, who is the essence of truth. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Stealing, 5th teaching) Hashem was telling Avraham and all of his offspring for all generations to walk to yourself, in all of your experiences and tests in life seek to discover yourself, the light of your soul which is essentially a portion of G-d in this world. Avraham was able to become such a shining light in the world and to even convert many non-Jews to Judaism because he lived his whole life according to this verse. He asked himself, ‘what is the truth?’ ‘What is the purpose of life?’ He looked inside himself to discover the truth and discover who he really was, he didn’t look at the world outside, because the entire world at his time was living in spiritual and moral darkness.
Rebbe Nachman also speaks about Avraham at the beginning of the second part of Likutei Moharan. He says, based upon a verse in the prophet Yechezkel, “Avraham was one” (Chapter 33), that Avraham served G-d only by way of being one, meaning that he didn’t look at all at what other people were doing, rather he lived like he was the only one in the world. I heard it said this week in the name of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l that Avraham cared enough about the world not to care what they thought of him. Rebbe Nachman concludes that we also need to live with this teaching in order to overcome the obstacles we face along the way to discovering who we truly are.
How can we also live with this teaching in our lives? Rebbe Noson concludes, “Therefore in truth, we need a lot of prayer and conversations with Hashem and words of truth, until a person will merit to always come closer to the essential truth.” We can fulfill the verse of Lech Lecha through prayer, by giving ourselves quiet, personal time to reflect on our lives and pray and ask ourselves questions: ‘Who am I?’ Where am I in my life?’ What do I want?’ We need personal time to hear our own voice, the voice of our soul, which is teaching us the special path we need to walk on in our life, just as Avraham heard the voice of his soul telling him that the idols he saw all around him were not the truth. Each and everyone one of us was brought into this world to contribute something unique and special.
Whenever we reach this time of year and read the parshas which tell the story of Avraham, I always feel excited to re-read his story and the light of faith he brought into a dark world. Avraham found the strength inside to walk with the truth, despite everything he saw and heard on the outside, and he gave this power and courage to all of his offspring.