Lech Lecha: Finding G-d

By: Rabbi Jay Kelman |

"G-d said to Abraham, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you' (12:1)".

Abraham is seventy-five years old when he begins his trek to the anonymous land that G-d has singled out for the Jewish people. Who is this Abram, and what has he done to merit G-d's promise that "I will bless you and make you great. I will bless those who bless you... all the families of the earth will be blessed through you" (12:2-3)? The Torah does not tell us. While his birth is recorded at the end of Parshat Noach, little else is mentioned. We do get a hint that his was a special family, as the Torah tells us whom he and his brother married and describes the family's move from Ur Casdim to Charan. But that is it. The Torah even tells us that Noach found favor in G -d's eyes, that he was righteous man, thus explaining why he was saved during the destruction of the flood. But no corresponding description has yet been recorded regarding Abram. Yet it is Abram who was the first Jew and the founder of the Jewish nation.

It is obvious that Abram was truly a great person; if not, he would not have been worthy of being chosen by G-d to carry out a special mission. "Here is my covenant with you: you shall be the father of a horde of nations; kings will be your descendants. I will sustain my covenant between Me and between you and your descendants...an eternal covenant" (17:4-7). While we were brought up with midrashim of Abraham smashing the idols of his father, of his precocious recognition that there must be a G-d in the world, none of this is actually recorded in the Torah text. When did he recognize G-d as the master of the universe? How did he come to this recognition? What motivated him? How did he have the courage to stand alone against rampant paganism? To these questions, the Torah is silent. It is true that the Midrash fills in many details of Abram's early years, but one must always keep in mind that the Midrash is not the same as the biblical text itself, and is not the word of G-d. Why would the Torah be silent on something so apparently significant as Abraham's early years, and how he came to his recognition of G-d?

It appears that the Torah is teaching us a very important lesson regarding our own relationship with G-d. There is more than one path to reach G-d. How one comes to recognize G-d as the master of the world is not really significant. What is significant is that you do recognize G-d as master of the universe. Just like Abraham, we must be willing to sacrifice for G-d, must make chesed our way of life. But our own personal journey is bound to be different from Abraham's. We must develop our own personal relationship with G-d in a way that is appropriate for our individual makeup. Thus, we pray to the "G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Yaakov". While our Patriarchs all served the same G-d, they had their own individual methods of doing so, as we must also. For some, the approach to G-d is an intellectual one; for others, it is emotional. Some are attracted by Chassidut, others by the rationalism of the Mitnagdim, and for others it the Mussar movement that inspires them. All of that is not really terribly important in the divine plan. What is important is that we serve G-d through obedience to His Torah as we do our best to improve this world. Then we, like Abraham, will receive the blessing of G-d that “all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”