The Parshah begins with Hashem telling Avraham Avinu לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך. Although there are some who are of the opinion that the first נסיון Avraham encountered was the כבשן האש in אור כשדים which is not recorded in the Torah, the אבות דרב נתן and the Rambam in Peirush Hamishnayos אבות פרק חמישי are of the opinion that this command from Hashem was the first of the ten נסיונות.
When a person is told to travel, all you need tell him is where to go because where he is going from is obvious, because that is where he is. However by Avraham, he is told מארצך ממולדתך ומבית אביך, giving many descriptions to where he is going from which is obvious. It’s clear from the emphasis on where he is going from as opposed to where he is going to that the destination is not what gives significance to this journey but it’s the where he is coming from. Where he was coming from, מארצך ממולדתך ומבית אביך, was about leaving everything that is comfortable, known, and familiar. That’s also why he is only being told אל הארץ אשר אראך, which Rashi explains לא גלה לו הארץ מיד because that is also about leaving everything that is known and familiar because he doesn’t even know where he is going. This was a journey about leaving everything that was known and familiar. The Medrash Rabbah (14:6) says that Avraham Avinu began the process of correcting the חטא of Adam HaRishon. Similarly, the Zohar in Parshas Vayera (102b) says explicitly that Avraham Avinu began the process of the tikun of the חטא עץ הדעת. We can assume that this is reflected in the עשרה נסיונות that Avraham Avinu was tested, the first of which being the נסיון of Lech Lecha. Adam HaRishon was seduced by the idea of והייתם כאלהים ידעי טוב ורע-the desire to be like angels (as translated by the Targum and the Ibn Ezra). He desired to be like an angel who has clear knowledge. Therefore we could suggest that the tikun was when Avraham Avinu was told Lech Lecha, which was to leave everything known and familiar and enter into a world of uncertainty by not knowing where he was going.
After Tachanun, we say ואנחנו לא נדע מה נעשה כי עליך עינינו. The Mishna Berura in סימן קלא ס"ק ט writes, quoting the Shelah, the following:
לפי שהתפללנו בכל ענין שיוכל אדם להתפלל בישיבה ובעמידה ובנפילת אפים כמו שעשה משה רבינו ע"ה שנא' ואשב בהר וגו' ואנכי עמדתי בהר וגו' ואתנפל לפני ה' וגו' ומאחר שאין בנו כח להתפלל בע"א אנו אומרים ואנחנו לא נדע מה נעשה וכו' וראוי לומר ואנחנו לא נדע בישיבה מה נעשה בעמידה ע"כ.
The minhag is to say ואנחנו לא נדע while sitting and מה נעשה while standing. It’s interesting that ואנחנו לא נדע מה נעשה כי עליך is really the opposite of what we experience, because usually when we don’t know what to do, then we turn to Hashem. But here we are saying because we rely on Hashem, therefore we don’t know what to do. Our relying on Hashem teaches us that what we think we know, we really don’t know. Therefore we say ואנחנו לא נדע מה נעשה כי עליך-because our eyes are focused on the Ribbono Shel Oilam, therefore we don’t know.
The minhag, as explained by the Shelah, is because Moshe Rabbeinu was ואשב בהר וגו' ואנכי עמדתי בהר וגו' ואתנפל לפני ה' and we during our davening did all these things as well, ישיבה עמידה and we just did ואתנפל but we conclude ואנחנו לא נדע מה נעשה. In a sense, what we are saying is that we tried everything, the ישיבה, the עמידה, but we don’t know what is actually going to work for us. But this does not paralyze us rather we still have the ability to get up every morning מתוך our relying on the Ribbono Shel Oilam. By Noach, the Pasuk says את האלוקים התהלך נח. Rashi points out that by Avraham Avinu, by the Mitzvah of Milah which was also one of the עשרה נסיונות, the Pasuk says התהלך לפני והיה תמים. This indicates that it’s not just the Milah itself is considered לפני but that the entire derech of Avraham Avinus Avodah was to be התהלך לפני as opposed to Noachs derech which was that of את האלוקים התהלך נח. The Ibn Ezra in his Hakdama writes והמלאך בין אדם ובין אלקיו הוא שכלו. Noach was only able to walk with Hashem. Bnei Noach have the ז' מצוות בני נח which are mostly שכלי and that is because they are not expected to go beyond what their שכל dictates, that which is known and familiar. That is the את האלוקים התהלך נח. Rashi says Noach needed לתמכו סעד- divine support. The divine support that Noach gets is the שכל which is the והמלאך בין אדם ובין אלקיו. Therefore his Mitzvos are שכלי because he gets the divine support to do his mitzvos. But Avraham Avinu was expected to be התהלך לפני, meaning he is expected to go beyond the realm of שכל and progress with uncertainty, which is beyond his שכל. So it’s not just Milah which is considered beyond the nature of the human body, but the entire דרך העבודה which is to be beyond the human psyche, and that’s the לפני.
By the עקידה, which is the last of the ten nisyonos, Avraham Avinu says to the נעריו with him שבו פה עם החמור ואני והנער נלכה עד כה. Rashi quoting the medrash writes ומדרש אגדה אראה היכן הוא מה שאמר לי המקום (לעיל טו ה) כה יהיה זרעך. The obvious meaning of this is that Avraham Avinu is concerned how is the עקידה not going to undo what was promised by כה יהיה זרעך. Nevertheless, it is interesting that this concern is all alluded to in the word כה. To explain this, we could possibly say as follows. After Hashem promises Avraham great reward, he responds ויאמר אברם אדני יקוק מה תתן לי ואנכי הולך ערירי ובן משק ביתי הוא דמשק אליעזר. Avraham was saying what will come of everything I have if I don’t have anyone to give it over to and all I have is אליעזר. Rashi on the words דמשק writes ובתלמוד דרשו נוטריקון דולה ומשקה מתורת רבו לאחרים. But if Avraham Avinu was expressing concern over not having someone to entrust his legacy to, why is he mentioning the perfect תלמיד who is דולה ומשקה מתורת רבו לאחרים?
It would seem that Avraham Avinu is unsatisfied with his legacy being entrusted to a תלמיד who is דולה ומשקה מתורת רבו לאחרים-someone who only gives over exactly what the Rebbe says. So to Avrahams request and concern, Hashem answers that he will have children and he tells himוספר הכוכבים אם תוכל לספר אתם ויאמר לו כה יהיה זרעך.
The Rabbeinu Bachya writes the following:
כה יהיה זרעך במדרגות החכמה, כי כשם שיש בכוכבים מי שאורו מזהיר ומבהיק יותר מחבירו, ומדרגותיהם חלוקות זו למעלה מזו באורה ובהשגה, כך עתידין חכמים שבישראל שיהיו מדרגות חלוקות, אור תורתו של זה למעלה מאור תורתו של זה, והשגתו של זה למעלה מהשגתו של זה.
According to this, Hashem was responding to Avraham that your legacy will not be carried from generation to generation by people who are just דולה ומשקה מתורת רבו לאחרים. Rather it will be carried from generation to generation by people who will expand upon it and create and bring your legacy to new levels just like כוכבים, each one has a light of his own. This is really the meaning of what Avraham Avinu was saying by the Akeida, that let’s see what will be with the כה יהיה זרעך. The זרעך should not only be able to live in the פה, but be able to live with the כה which is unclear and are able to progress in a world where things are not certain and clear, in a world where things are כה. So when Avraham Avinu was being presented with the nisayon of the Akeida, he says let us see what is happening with the כה יהיה זרעך. Let us see how far he can go with the gift of כה, with his ability to progress with uncertainty and not being able to understand and therefore it was not a contradiction to what Hashem commanded him to do by the Akeida.
Every generation is going to add to Avraham Avinus legacy because every generation will be faced with new problems, questions, and uncertainties which will force them to take old knowledge and apply it to new situations and problems. Therefore, they will constantly be moving the legacy of Avraham Avinu to new levels. So כה יהיה זרעך will not just be a דולה ומשקה because such a person cannot deal with new problems and questions. But since his זרעך will be progressing in the כה, they will be taking his legacy to new heights.
On the words לך לך, Rashi writes להנאתך ולטובתך שם אעשך לגוי גדול ועוד שאודיע טבעך בעולם. Sometimes what is טוב is not pleasurable, and sometimes what is pleasurable is not טוב. But here it was both להנאתך ולטובתך.
The question is what was the tremendous נסיון to leave if it was להנאתך ולטובתך? Some Meforshim say that he listened and left but not for those reasons. However, a few Psukim later, the Pasuk says וילך אברם כאשר דבר אליו, meaning he did go for those reasons mentioned by Hashem so what was the tremendous נסיון? What was he giving up? Obviously for one to obey Hashem’s command and being willing to sacrifice for that purpose is a nisayon. But an even greater nisayon is that he was told and accepted that he will not be sacrificing anything and it will be להנאתך ולטובתך. For one to accept that he will not be losing at all but on the contrary it’ll be להנאתך ולטובתך is like sacrificing his mind because everything he was doing, according to all calculations, would be undoing everything that is being promised to him as Rashi writes לפי שהדרך גורמת לשלשה דברים ממעטת פריה ורביה, וממעטת את הממון . וממעטת את השם. And yet he is still being told and is accepting that following Hashems command is not to sacrifice all those things but to have all those things להנאתך ולטובתך, ושם אעשך לגוי גדול is like sacrificing his mind. The mind is the essence of who we are and therefore it was a much greater nisayon.
Davening is כנגד קרבנות תיקנום . But what exactly are we sacrificing when we daven because after all, we are asking Hashem for a lot of things- so where is the struggle? But in fact, that which we are admitting that we are not in control of our own lives; that we have to come on to Hashem to do everything for us that is the ultimate sacrifice. To get rid of our ego and come to the realization that we can’t do it on our own. The Pasuk says כי יצר לב האדם רע מנעריו and Rashi writes מנעריו כתיב משננער לצאת ממעי אמו ניתן בו יצר הרע. Although the baby has everything he needs while he is in his mother’s womb, it still is ננער לצאת because it desires the feeling of independence as is the human condition and therefore the Avodah is to get rid of that ego and recognize that we are dependent completely on Hashem. But that isn’t to say that a person can therefore walk around like a nebach without putting in any effort to succeed. He still must do everything in his power to be successful but at the same time recognize that it’s not due to his independence.
But the truth is if one looks through the Parshah, it didn’t really end up too good for Avraham Avinu. Upon arriving in Eretz Yisrael, there is a famine and he has to go to Mitzrayim. Once there, his wife gets taken away from him and he can’t have children with his wife. So by Hashem telling him that his journey is להנאתך ולטובתךhe just made the nisayon much harder. If Avraham Avinu was supposed to sacrifice his להנאתך וטובתך so then everything that happened subsequently wouldn’t be such a disappointment. But when Avraham was told it was להנאתך ולטובתך, it made it much harder to deal with all those disappointments and nevertheless he didn’t give up. The Medrash in the beginning of the Parshah says as follows:
א"ר יצחק למה אברהם אבינו דומה, לאחד שהיה מהלך ממקום למקום, וראה בירה דולקת, אמר שמא תאמר שהבירה הזאת בלא מנהיג, הציץ עליו בעל הבירה ואמר אני בעל הבירה
Avraham Avinu saw a בירה דולקת, a palace on fire. He saw a world that was filled with unjust and pain. He questioned as to whether or not there was a מנהיג לבירה. Avraham Avinu could have concluded that there must not be a מנהיג. But the fact that it bothered him that how could the world be so unjust and how could such bad things happen forced him to come to the conclusion that there must be a God. If there wouldn’t be a God and everything would be just by chance, then he wouldn’t feel upset, be frustrated or have any expectations for anything because nobody would be running the show and there wouldn’t be anyone to be upset at. However, being that Avraham experienced that feeling that in itself proved to him that there must be a creator and that is why it bothered him when he saw all the unjust in the world. This is a דרוש for how the Medrash ends off הציץ עליו בעל הבירה that the בעל הבירה cracked to him in his misery and showed him in his pain that there was a בעל הבירה.
Similarly, on the Pasuk in Shoftim כי יפלא ממך דבר למשפט בין דם לדם בין דין לדין ובין נגע לנגע דברי ריבת בשעריך וקמת ועלית אל המקום אשר יבחר יקוק אלהיך בו (יז, ח), the Chassam Sofer explains the following. There are somethings that a person finds difficult to understand and because of the difficulty, he locks it out of his brain and he says he is not going to think about it, but that is the wrong thing to do and a person will be punished for doing such a thing. Rather Hashem gives a person these thoughts in order for him to think about it because through thinking about it, he will come to an answer and it will get him to a higher level.
This is the meaning of the Pasuk when it says כי יפלא ממך דבר למשפט, that when you will be surprised and exclaim where is the justice, למשפט meaning justice. The world appears unjust and you’ll be bothered by things that seem to be unjustified. But it’s not about ignoring it, rather one should allow himself to think about it because the fact that a person feels this way is in order to bring himself to a higher level of understanding and a deeper level of connection with Hashem. This that it will bring him to a higher level of understanding is expressed in the end of the Pasuk when it says וקמת ועלית that through the פליאה you will be מתבונן and come to a higher level.
The Pasuk says ויבא אל הגר ותהר ותרא כי הרתה ותקל גברתה בעיניה (טז,ד). Rashi explains:
אמרה שרי זו אין סתרה כגלויה, מראה עצמה כאלו היא צדקת ואינה צדקת, שלא זכתה להריון כל השנים הללו, ואני נתעברתי מביאה ראשונה.
Hagar’s attitude and approach was that success is a yardstick by which we could measure a person’s level, and since Sarah hadn’t had children yet, she must be a fraud and not the person she is perceived as. But the house of Avraham understood that success and failure don’t show if you are great or not. Therefore Hagar immediately had to leave the house of Avraham because she didn’t understand this fundamental idea that success or lack of it is not an indication for where a person is holding and what level they are on.
אל הארץ אשר אראך"” Rashi writes לא גלה לו הארץ מיד כדי לחבבה בעיניו. How does withholding the information of the destination make it חביב?
The Gur Aryeh writes ופירוש זה שכאשר אין מגלה לו מיד - הדבר חביב עליו, מפני שהוא מצטער אחר המצוה שלא ידע. A person will have a deeper connection to something that he achieves through pain. The more invested a person is, and the more pain a person experiences to achieve something, the greater the connection.
The Gemara says לא יגעת ומצאת אל תאמין יגעת ומצאת תאמין. But There are some people that are brilliant who are barely יגע but they get it instantly and then there are people who sweat and toil but and barely get it. However it is really how you define the מצאת. A person who is brilliant and doesn’t need to toil that much, he might understand it but he won’t make it personal and it won’t make an impact on himself. As opposed to the individual who isn’t as smart but toils and just barely understands it, to him the connection is much deeper and personal. So the not knowing, the אל הארץ אשר אראך- the צער of not knowing where you are going, brings about the חביבות. That’s why the יגעת brings the מצאת.
Similarly, the Gemara in Bava Metziah 38a says אדם רוצה בקב שלו מתשעה קבים של חבירו. Rashi writes חביבה עליו על ידי שעמל בהן, וקב שישאר לו מהם הוא רוצה מתשעה קבין של אחרים, שיקח בדמיהן אם ימכרם.
הושע writes of Hashem’s wrath towards בני ישראל with vivid imagery. He describes the way in which Hashem will act as the revenge of a mother bear whose young children have been snatched from her protection ( הושע - י״ג, ח׳ ). The רד״ק wonders about the choice of animal in the metaphor; why not a lion or leopard? Are they not more ferocious! He explains that unlike other animals, the mother bear is a very active participant in bringing her children into this world. She must bite through a very thick placenta to release the cub from within. Due to her invested effort, she clings to her children more than other animals. The deep love she has for them results in a tremendous pain, and thus fury, in the event of their death. What we learn from mother bear is the reality of how to create meaning in life. The more we invest, the deeper and more real the product.