Parashat Lech Lecha

A True Visionary

At the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha, we once again hear the famous call to our forefather Abraham. "G-d said to Abram, 'Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing". (Genesis 12:1-2).

RaSHI was sensitive to the fact that several blessings were made to our forefather Abraham during this one particular calling. It is written: "I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great". Perhaps it would have been sufficient to promise "You shall become a blessing" …

Why was it necessary to give the blessings in such detail? RaSHI brings a wonderful and penetrating response to this same question.

Why were three promises needed?

Since traveling causes three things: It inhibits the birth of children, and decreases one's wealth and lessens one's fame, therefore, these three blessings were necessary. He [G-d], promised him children, wealth and fame.

RaSHI states that a man who chooses to go on any new path might have to pay a heavy price for his decision. His family might have to pay a heavy price. His fortune might suffer. The person’s good name could be affected by the change.

According to RaSHI, a man of vision takes risks and it appears to me that this comment is also relevant in a week during which we commemorate the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l.

An interesting example to help understand the power of a vision is to look at the area of road paving. Today, we travel on orderly roads that have been paved with careful consideration by engineers and professionals. But who chose the path of the road upon which we travel?

In the present day, road builders can be assisted by modern technology such as satellite pictures during the planning of the project, but there are cases in which we travel upon a road that was paved hundreds and even thousands of years ago by some unknown pioneer who was searching for his way between the mountains. Others followed in his footsteps until these same footsteps became a dirt path. After many generations, those first footsteps became a stone road and then later paved with asphalt.

Today, travel is a simple matter. We know how to reach our desired destination, and sometimes we even know how long it will take to reach it. But the first person to go took risks. He did not know what awaited him on the other side of the mountain. He also did not know when he would arrive. He did not know if his donkey or ox would survive the hardships of the journey.

This is precisely what happened to Abraham Avinu. And so Abraham needed those three blessings, because it would be difficult for him as it is for any individual who wants to begin something new.

A few days ago, I read that Thomas Edison conducted two thousands of experiments before he succeeded in inventing the electric light bulb.

Journalists asked him at the time how he felt failing those thousands of time until he saw the fruit of his labor. He replied: “I didn’t fail, not even once. It was simply a successful process with two thousands steps.”

A famous saying goes: "All beginnings are difficult". I would like to add to this today: "If it isn’t difficult, it’s a sign that you have not yet begun". We have a tendency to think that Abraham’s journey to the Land of Canaan is the beginning of our Parashah. However, if we look at the end of the previous section, we see that at the end of Parashat Noah there was the point in time when Abraham left Ur Kasdim (see Genesis 11:31-32).

The Torah says something most interesting. Terah (Abraham's father) also wanted to reach the Land of Canaan, but he arrived in Haran and remained there. For Terah, going to Canaan was not an issue of values.

Abraham continued on, even when he knew that he was taking a huge risk. But a person of vision always takes risks.

To be a person of vision, one doesn’t require the particular characteristic attributed to those of singular greatness such as Abraham Avinu, nor those of the other heroes of our nation. We also, in our simple lives, find ourselves standing at crossroads where we have to decide whether to continue in the direction of our vision, or come to a standstill from fear of taking risks.

And from this point in time, only we can decide whether we will fulfill ourselves in the world, despite the dangers, or continue our lives with the continuous feeling of having missed a new opportunity.

Weekly Torah Portion