Parshas Lech Lecho - The greatest gift of all can be the greatest test of all!
אברהם was given 10 tests. When I asked 10 random people, which of the 10 tests was most difficult of all, the vast majority said, that of course, עקידת יצחק-the command to kill your own child was the greatest test. I would like to argue that the most significant test for אברהם was theלך לך test. Let me explain.
Let’s start by asking two basic questions. One very famous and one a little less popular.
Question #1:All of those who enumerate the number of tests, include לך לך as one of those tests. This does not make much sense to say that this was a “test” if coupled with his test of leaving his homeland, he was promised fame, fortune and children. What kind of test is that? If I was told to pick up and leave and be given so much in return, I would ask, when do I pack my bags? Especially if I was given a promise by Hashem!
Question #2:שרה was known as one of the 4 most beautiful women in the world. Not a typical attribute to ignore. Why did אברהם just realize now (1) that שרה was beautiful?
Some suggest that of course אברהם knew of her beauty. Until now, אברהם only saw her inner beauty but he did not express his recognition of her outer beauty. I would like to expound on this idea to help us understand the לך לך conundrum.
אברהם was a very spiritual man. Not very materialistic at all. Even though he was blessed with everything, he did not live in a huge palace, but a humble abode lacking any doors. When he was told that this will be “for your benefit and for your pleasure,” that in itself was the test. To leave a non-materialistic place to a place where he will be given so much in terms of wealth and fame, was a huge test for him, perhaps the greatest one of all. Perhaps אברהם felt that by being given so much, it will challenge his faith because he would no longer feel the need to daven for what he wanted.
אברהם was a person who woke up early and instituted שחרית. He was not into doing what was easiest. When you are out of your non-materialistic element you start seeing a whole new world which is why he just noticed the physical beauty of שרה. In psychological terms, his cognitive schema had changed. Schemas, in psychology refer to the structures a person uses to organize knowledge and guide mental processes and behavior. Therefore changes, especially a move out of your homeland is especially difficult. It is widely known that the top three stressors one can face in life are death, divorce, and a move to a different city.
We are not anywhere near the caliber of an אברהם and שרה. We do want the quickest and easiest. We want Amazon Prime NOW. We also want ישועות.
There is a fascinatingגמרא in מסכת שבת(2) that brings a פסוק in ישעיה which when broken down, says the גמרא refers to the six סדרים of Mishna. When it gets to the word ישועות in the פסוק-the גמרא says this refers to סדר נזיקין. The סדר that deals with damages. What does money matters and monetary damages have to do with ישועות or salvation? When we get up early in the morning and daven to Hashem, like אברהם who instituted this תפילה, we are basically asking for salvation from many things. Bad neighbors, bad judgments etc. But nonetheless we ask for those ישועות.
This was why this test of לך לך which came with so much ברכה, was such a giant test for אברהם. He wanted to have the opportunity to daven for ישועות because that is how he connected to Hashem and start his day out with the proper mindset. Having a beautiful wife both on the inside and the outside made אברהם nervous. Having everything he needed as we are told that Hashem blessed אברהםwith everything-בכל-“with everything” (3) was therefore—the biggest test.
(1) Bereishis 12:11
(2) Shabbos 31a
(3) Bereishis 24:1