Parshas Lech Lecha-Torah Or-Avraham’s life mission

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Lech Lecha….…”

[Torah Or p. 11a]

The Parsha of Lech Lecha discusses the life story of Avraham Avinu, the first patriarch of the Jewish people. The Mamar talks about the spiritual level and root of our Patriarch Avraham. Although Avraham Avinu was already born and mentioned in the previous Parsha of Noach, nevertheless his main accomplishments as the head of the Jewish people began in the Parsha of Lech Lecha. What was the purpose of the command of Lech Lecha? Why did Hashem desire for Avraham to enter the land of Canaan? What was the meaning of Avram’s name before it was changed, what triggered its change, and what does that change signify? How did the Milah affect Avraham, and why did he wait so long to perform it? These queries bring us into a deep exposition on the corresponding levels of Avraham and Sarah in the celestial spheres, and the purpose of every Jew’s daily mission in descending to refine the Divine sparks. Each one of our forefathers represented a different Divine aspect that contributed to our ability to receive the Torah. Avraham Avinu was an embodiment of the attribute of Chesed and he contained a very high level of Divine intellect. He began his mission in refining the world after his command of Lech Lecha. In order to succeed in his mission, Avraham was given an additional letter to his name. A letter is not just a means of verbalization, but represents a new flow of G-dliness that Avraham required in order to fulfill his mission. This Mamar takes the reader through the spiritual journey experienced by our forefather Avraham in his quest to find G-d, serve Him, and eventually become the father of the Jewish nation who received the Torah and will merit ushering the Divine presence and fulfill the concept of creating a Dirah Betachtonim.


Explorations of the Mamar

1.      Why did Hashem desire for Avraham to enter the land of Canaan?

2.      What was the meaning of Avram’s name before it was changed, what triggered its change, and what does the change signify?

3.      How did the Milah affect Avraham, and why did he wait so long to perform it?

4.      Why did Sarah require the letter Yud in her name to be exchanged for a Hei?


The level of Avram:

The name “Avram” stands for the words “Av/father” and “Ram/high”. This represents a level of intellect that is so elevated that it surpasses the conscious mind. This level of intellect is called “Sechel Hanelam Mekol Raayon/Intellect that is above all thought”. It is the level of Mochin [intellect] that surpasses even the level of Chochmah of Atzilus. [It is similar to a great and sublime idea that one has in the back of his mind but is unable to express in a way that others can understand. In G-dliness, this level represents the level of Mochin that is above Chochmah of Atzilus. This is known as Chochmah Setima.] Although this level of intellect is above comprehension, its purpose has to be revealed below; the objective is for this level of Mochin, which surpasses even Atzilus, to be drawn down to the lower worlds of Beriyah, Yetzira, and Assiyah. Accordingly, this is the meaning of the verse, “And Hashem said to Avram, ‘Go from your land’”: Hashem is telling Avraham that his sublime level of Av Ram should descend and reveal itself in order to refine and fix the world. Until the time of Avraham, the world had experienced “Sheviras Hakeilim”, the generation of the Flood. From Avraham began the world of Tikkun, which requires him to go out and begin to refine the world. Avraham embodied this very high level of G-dliness called Av-Ram, through the revelation of which he could perfect the world and make it a dwelling place for G-d.


The purpose of the Mitzvah of Milah:

As a prerequisite for the revelation of the level of Av Ram, Avram had to perform the Mitzvah of Milah. The Arla [foreskin] represents the level of Kelipas Nogah [neutral evil] that covers over holiness and conceals it. So long as the foreskin surrounds holiness, the level of holiness cannot be revealed, as this would allow the side of Kelipas Nogah to nurture from this revelation and receive greater vitality and life-force then it was allocated during its creation. For this reason, after the Milah the verse states that that Avraham would be “Av Hamon Goyim/Father of all nations”, as the removal of Avraham’s Arla gave the ability for his level of Av Ram to be revealed and hence become a light onto the nations and assist them in their refinement. The refinement of the nations takes place due to a great revelation of G-dliness. This is similar to a great torch that attracts all of the smaller sparks to join it. Every item of food and drink contains Holy sparks within it. The torch of G-dliness uncovered through Avraham’s revelation would attract the sparks of G-dliness hidden throughout the nations of the world. The purpose of the Jews entering into exile is to refine these sparks and have them included within holiness. It is precisely the Mitzvah of Milah that allows the source of Holiness to be revealed and allows the sparks to become attracted to Kedusha.   

The letter Hei added to Avraham:

Prior to Avram’s travel to Eretz Canaan, which represented the descent of his sublime level of Av Ram into the world, he had the letter Hei added to his name. What was the meaning of this additional letter and what significance does it have to Avram’s descent? The letter Hei represents Avram’s descent and revelation into the world to become the level of “Av Hamon Goyim”. Due to this, at first glance it seems that the additional letter Hei is on a lower level than Avram, and adding this letter actually lowered the spiritual status of Avram. However, the letter Hei is rooted in the Sefirah of Atik Yomin, which is even higher than the original level of Av Ram, which is Chochmah. As a result of this additional letter Hei, which is rooted higher than Avram’s name, Avram had the power to descend below. The level of Avram without the Hei is similar to a very bright and intellectual person that does not have the ability to express his knowledge to students in a comprehensive manner. While this person is certainly bright, he does not maintain enough high-quality intellect to allow him to convey his sublime thoughts. A true wise man, however, has the ability to take his high intellect and express it in words that even a student can comprehend. This was the greatness of Shlomo Hamelech, that aside from his great level of knowledge and comprehension, he had the wisdom to convey his knowledge through parables in a way that even those that are intellectually crippled can understand. Thus, the letter Hei, which gave Avram the ability to descend below, in truth represents an added ability of intellect that is higher than Avram’s original state.


The ability to affect the world through Torah and Mitzvos:

All of the Torah and its Mitzvos relate to physical matters. The physical objects used for performing the Mitzvos are receptacles for receiving the effusion of Chochmah that is emitted through performing a Mitzvah with the item. The ability for Chochmah to descend into the physical object is due to the fact that the Mitzvos are rooted in the light of Kesser, and it is due to this root that Mitzvos can descend within physical objects. The level of Chochmah revealed within the Torah and Mitzvos is even greater than the level of Chochmah itself, being that this revelation of Chochmah contains within it the revelation of Kesser. It is for this reason that the Torah does not mention the good deeds of Avraham, such as Hachnasas Orchim, until he entered Eretz Yisrael, after he was 75 years old. The reason for this is because the actions performed by Avraham before entering Eretz Yisrael and receiving the command of Lech Lecha did not affect this world and did not cause any Divine unification above. It was only after the command of Lech Lecha, in which Avraham was commanded to descend below, that the Mitzvos he performed now received the ability to make Divine unifications. Although the main ability to perform unifications is through the Torah given at Sinai, nevertheless Avraham and Yitzchak laid the groundwork and the preparatory stage for the giving of the Torah, and they drew down the Torah that was to be given.

A parable:

Much of the world today is dependent on computers. How many of us remember the fear that anticipated the year 2000, otherwise known as Y2K, due to a computer glitch caused by the new numerical value of 2000 not being recognized? One of the effects of this computer glitch of Y2K occurred in the city of Sheffield, United Kingdom, in which incorrect Down syndrome test results were sent to 154 pregnant women, and two abortions were carried out as a direct result. Four babies with Down syndrome were also born to mothers who had been told they were in the low-risk group. Hence, we see the great dependency of the world on computers.The function of any computer requires a flow of electricity. If one does not have electricity, the buttons that he presses will have no meaning or effect on anything. Once the electricity flow has been established, the actions that are performed on the keyboard can make the greatest of changes to the world. This is a parable for the effect of the Torah and Mitzvos of Avraham before and after the command of Lech Lecha. Prior to the command of Lech Lecha, the Mitzvos performed by Avraham Avinu were not connected to the G-dly electricity that makes the Mitzvah alive and effective. Hashem had not yet connected the Mitzvos to G-dliness, which allowed them to affect the upper worlds. After the command of Lech Lecha, however, the surge of G-dliness was connected to the Mitzvos, and the Mitzvos then received the power to affect the world.  


The drawing of G-dliness into the physical world:

Although the Avos had already performed the preparatory steps necessary for receiving the Torah, nevertheless it still remained necessary for the Jewish people to go through the exile of Egypt in order to actually receive the Torah. The reason for this is because the Torah contains both an internal and an external aspect. The internal part of the Torah is the Mitzvos as they exist in the spiritual worlds. These Mitzvos cause Divine unifications within the worlds and draw G-dliness down into them. The external part of the Torah is the Mitzvos as they exist in the physical world, embodied within actual physical objects. It was only the inner part of the Torah that the Avos merited to receive through their Avoda. However, they did not merit the external part of the Torah. To merit the external aspect of the Torah, the Jewish people had to experience the Egyptian exile. Although the Avos fulfilled all of the Torah, they did not don an actual pair of physical Tefillin. This novelty only came about as a result of Yetzias Mitzrayim. This difference also extends to the effect of the Mitzvos in this world. Avraham Avinu was unable to draw down G-dliness through his Mitzvos into the physical objects of this world, and the Divine unifications performed remained in effect only within the spiritual worlds.


Avodas Habeirurim:[1]

The Rebbe Rashab once told someone in Yechidus: From the time that Hashem told Avraham Avinu, “Lech Lecha Meiartzecha,” and Avraham began to travel “Hanegba,” towards the south of Eretz Yisrael, the mystical mission of Avodas Habeirurim began. Based on the decree of Divine providence, every person is led towards his journey in life, through which he will refine the Divine sparks that await his acts of redemption. The Tzaddikim who have Ruach Hakodesh know exactly where they are destined to refine the sparks and intentionally go to those areas. All others, however, are unaware of their Divine destination and the “Cause of all Causes” arranges for them to reach the destination that awaits their Avoda to redeem the sparks.


The reason why Hashem commanded Avraham to perform the physical Mitzvah of Milah

Although, as stated above, the Avos only fulfilled the Mitzvos in their spiritual aspects, nevertheless regarding the Mitzvah of Milah Avraham merited receiving an actual physical Mitzvah just like after Matan Torah. This physical Mitzvah was given to Avraham as a gift when he reached the age of 99, and he was given the opportunity to draw down G-dliness into the actual physical world. This Mitzvah was given to him in order to allow Yitzchak to be born in purity and subsequently have Yaakov, who would have only pure and holy children that could then serve as the Jewish people, who would later receive the physical Torah. The inability of Avraham and Yitzchak to receive the Torah can be seen from the fact that Yishmael came from Avraham, and Eisav from Yitzchak. It was only Yaakov who enjoyed a “complete bed”, 12 holy children, to whom the external part of the Torah could be given.

The Chesed of Avraham:

It is known that Avraham embodies the great attribute of Chesed in its most extreme form. No one is invalid in his eyes and all are worthy in receiving blessing. It is for this reason that Avraham said that even Yishmael should be granted eternal life. Although Avraham knew who Yishmael was and he knew of his evil ways, nevertheless this did not stop him from expressing his attribute of Chesed towards him and wishing that even he would live forever. This is the meaning of the statement, “Not like Avraham, which Yishmael came out from”, as Yishmael came as a result of the root of Avraham in the extreme form of Chesed. In truth, such Chesed that desires even Yishmael to live forever is improper, as when Moshiach arrives, G-d willing speedily in our days, it states that evil will be destroyed and abolished. All evil must cease to exist. If the world were to act according to this extreme form of Chesed, which was the root of Avraham’s soul, the world would never reach the level of Moshiach as evil would never cease to exist! It is for this reason that Hashem brought Yitzchak, who derives from the attribute of Din, judgment. Nevertheless, also Yitzchak did not offer a proper balance, as Eisav derived from his great Gevurah. It was only from Yaakov that a complete and balanced level of Chesed and Gevurah came into the world.

Magen Avraham-The shield of Avraham:

The first blessing in Shemoneh Esrei, which corresponds to Avraham Avinu, concludes with “Magen Avraham,” “The shield of Avraham”. What is the meaning of this statement? It is known that a shield protects from arrows during warfare. What shield does Avraham need and from what is this shield protecting? The verse states “Ki Shemesh Umagen Havayah Elokim”, that just as if the sun did not contain a protective shield [photosphere[2]] it would be impossible to bear its light and rays, so too the name of Havayah, which transmits a great amount of G-dliness, would be impossible to bear if not for the protective shield of the name Elokim. In the future, however, Hashem will remove the sun [Havayah] from its sheath [Elokim] and the Tzaddikim will receive their Divine reward from it. The Reshaim, however, will suffer from this revelation. Now, it is known that every morning the level of Avraham, Chesed, is aroused and revealed in the world, as the verse states “Vayashkeim Avraham Baboker”. This is a time when Hashem desires to direct His world in a way of Chesed. This Chesed, however, requires a sheath, just like the sun. If this Chesed did not have a sheath that would contract and limit His Chesed, then the Kelipos and evil forces would also nurture from it. Although the Kelipos and evil forces also require some nurturing from Holiness in order to maintain their existence, nevertheless if the Chesed did not have a shield they would receive an abundance of vitality and the forces of evil would dominate the world. The entire purpose of the existence of evil is for it to be turned into good [Is’hapcha], and if it were to receive an abundance of G-dly energy this mission would be impossible to accomplish. Therefore, every morning when the attribute of Avraham, Chesed, is aroused we say “Magen Avraham”; praying that the Chesed should be limited so that the side of evil does not receive more than necessary. This is in essence for our own benefit. 

The change of Sarah’s name:

Saraiy had her name changed to “Sarah.” What was the meaning of this name change? Why was a Yud exchanged for a Hei? The purpose of this change was to allow Sarah to have children, as Saraiy could not bring children into the world. This seems puzzling, being that children derive from Chochmah, and Bina develops the child. So how was Saraiy, whose name contained a Yud, which corresponds to Chochmah, specifically unable to have children, and only when she received the Hei, which corresponds to Bina, was she able to do so? The explanation is that Avraham and Sarah were two different levels of Chochmah. Avraham was Chochmah Ilaah, Chochmah of Atzilus, while Sarah was Chochmah Tataah, which is Malchus. In order for Avraham to have children, he was specifically required to retain his name of Av Ram, which is Chochmah. The Hei that was added to Avraham’s name was not needed for him to have children. Now, although the verse likewise states by Avraham that “Avram” will not have children but Avraham will have children, this was not regarding physical children in this world, but rather regarding Avraham’s ability to be a “father of nations”, to be able to elevate the Divine sparks found in the nations, as discussed above in the Mamar. Therefore, to have Yitzchak, Avraham did not need any name change at all. On the contrary, specifically the level of Av Ram was conducive for Yitzchak’s birth, as Yitzchak comes from the level of Kedusha that is Bittul, which comes from Chochmah. However, Sarah represents the level of Malchus, and Malchus can only create children if it expands and develops the seed of Chochmah. If, however, Malchus also maintains the level of Bittul of Chochmah, a child would never receive gestation and would be unable to be born. Therefore, Sarah specifically required a change in her name and a Hei was added in order for the child of Avraham to receive a gestation period of pregnancy, be developed, and born.

Lessons of the Mamar

·         Every person receives a journey of “Lech Lecha,” just like our forefather Avraham. We are sent on a mission to redeem the Divine sparks of G-dliness that await specifically the work of our hands. Remember, wherever you are, that you are not alone, and have been sent on a Divine mission.

·         Externally, the descent to worldly matters, from the Beis Hamidrash to business, is a Yeridah in one’s level. However, internally the Divine mission from Hashem for this particular person is to bring down his Holy matters of prayer and Torah, into his worldly matters, his job, and business. Through doing so, he actually receives an “extra Hei,” a level of G-dliness and Holiness that is much higher than the level he had before his descent in order to help him accomplish his mission.


[1] Hayom Yom, 1st Marcheshvan

[2] See “The coming revolution” p. 16 for a thorough essay on the sun’s sheath spoken of in Chazal, and in Science.

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