November 11, 2016
Rav Mordechai Shifman of Emek Academy in Los Angeles shares a profound insight regarding Hashem's first direct communication with Avraham Avinu. Definite food for thought..
Have a great Shabbos.
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos teaches that Avraham our father was tested with ten trials of faith. According to all commentaries, the directive of "lech lecha" - "go for yourself" is included as one of those trials. However, coupled with this directive, Avraham is promised fame, fortune, and many children. Therefore, how does this directive constitute a test? If a person is guaranteed fame, fortune and children, what could possibly impede his going? Furthermore, most people of a lesser faith than Avraham would follow Hashem's directive even without the promise of reward. Why is it necessary for Hashem to promise Avraham all of these benefits?
Rashi comments that "lecha" - "for yourself" means "for your pleasure and benefit". Why does Avraham have to be told that enjoying fame, fortune and many children is for his pleasure and benefit?
We all go through life struggling to choose what is good over what is pleasurable for us. We contemplate whether we should eat healthy foods or enjoyable unhealthy foods. We deliberate whether it would be better to have a faithful marriage and the responsibility of raising children, or to be free to consort with whomever we please. The reason why we struggle as such is because we define pleasure as physical gratification. If man would realize that the greatest possible pleasure, a pleasure which transcends base physical gratification, is the feeling he receives from doing what is right, all of his inner turmoil would dissipate. The feeling of ennobling ourselves by doing the will of Hashem is a pleasure which we carry with us throughout our lives. We must redefine for ourselves what true pleasure is, what really makes us feel good.
The test that Avraham is faced with is following Hashem for his pleasure and benefit; Hashem is testing Avraham to see whether he considers carrying out the will of Hashem and experiencing pleasure to be one and the same. The pleasure of doing what is right should override those forbidden pleasures which tempt us. "Lech lecha" - "go for yourself" is a test to determine whether Avraham is going for his pleasure, whether his pleasure comes from adhering to the directive of Hashem. The rewards of fame and fortune occur subsequent to Avraham's fulfillment of the directive of "lech lecha"; they are not the pleasure and benefit alluded to in that directive.