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Parshat Lech Lecha - The Secret of Eretz Yisrael

By: הרב רונן נויברט

Rashi explains the meaning of the double verbiage "Lech Lecha". The connotation of "Lecha" (for yourself) is "For your pleasure, and for your benefit" (Rashi ibid.). This commentary of Rashi requires profound study.


The Secret of Eretz Yisrael

"Hashem said to Avram, "Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you". (Bereishit 12:1)

Rashi explains the meaning of the double verbiage "Lech Lecha". The connotation of "Lecha" (for yourself) is "For your pleasure, and for your benefit" (Rashi ibid.). This commentary of Rashi requires profound study. Why does Hashem try, seemingly, to tempt Avraham with the pleasure and the benefit derived from Eretz Yisrael?  It would seem that this promise diminishes the value of Avraham's compliance with Hashem's command. Had Hashem urged Avraham to go to Eretz Yisrael, while disclosing the difficulties which might be encountered and how elusive pleasure and comfort might actually be in Eretz Yisrael, that might have been an appropriate test of Avraham's compliance. If so, why does Rashi try to emphasize this promise of pleasure?

Rav Yaakov Charlap, one of the great students of Rav Avraham Kook, explains the intention of Rashi in his book "Mei Marom." One item discussed in Parashat Lech Lecha is Brit Milah (circumcision). Our sages explain in various Midrashim that the commandment of the Brit Milah was granted to us in order to atone the first sin, the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge. This outrageous transgression caused a separation of our physical and spiritual makeup. Before the sin, humans were capable of sensing their souls, their internal spirituality, beholding the pleasure and the sweetness of Hashem within their souls. After the sin the human was deteriorated into two separate levels. It's not only that the body cannot sense the soul. It's also the soul itself that deteriorated. The soul became dependent on the body's choice without any real power to lead.

          When Adam performed his sin, he was reduced from the level of greatness of sensing the difference between good and evil to the low level of knowing the difference between good and evil, without the ability to "smell" a sin in advance and adjust his behavior. Before the sin, Adam naturally felt the need of doing good deeds and observing the divine commandments as easily as he could have sensed the taste of a delicious food. Accordingly, he could instinctively reject sin, in the same way his body could instinctively avoid of a burning fire. Once Adam failed and made this awful error, he lost the ability to sense the spiritual layer of our world. After that, he could no longer feel and sense the good and the evil. He could only consciously distinguish between good and evil. He would have to acquire knowledge in order to be able to distinguish between them.

That is the purpose of the Brit Milah commandment, "התהלך לפני והיה תמים"- "Walk before Me and be perfect." The Brit Milah restores our completeness. Says Rav Charlap (Ibid.):

"Through the Brit Milah commandment you will be perfect. Your body and soul will be merged into one entity. The ultimate goal of our world is to grant our body the ability to get closer to our soul so there will be no contradiction and no friction between them. No more two divided entities which draws one toward contrasting directions"

Avraham Avinu was the first human being who was privileged to perform this fundamental commandment. Avraham studied Torah from within his body, from his very two kidneys (Breshit Raba 95:3). He merited to experience this level of natural perfection, of internal completeness.

This is exactly the secret of "Eretz Israel". The difference between Eretz Israel and all other lands is equivalent to the disparity between the spiritual level of Humankind before and after circumcision. In the Diaspora, one has to subdue his physical inclinations in order to achieve a spiritual level.

"Whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a God, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no God" (Kethuboth 110b)

The Land of Israel is the land of perfection, the land of completeness. The Torah of Eretz Israel assists us to find the path to the completion of the connection between Heaven and Earth; it is the place where there is no contradiction between our physical inclinations and our spiritual obligations, between Torah and Avodah.

There is, therefore, a close connection between the covenant of the Milah to the covenant of Eretz Yisrael. וכרות עמו הברית - לתת לו את ארץ כנען"" -  "And you established the covenant with him to give him the land of Canaan."

This is probably the intention of Rashi, explaining that "Lecha" is for your pleasure and your benefit. Only in Eretz Israel can one achieve this unique level of greatness, where it is possible to be satisfied and fulfilled with all pleasures, both spiritual and physical. Only there will one find no contradiction between the enjoyments of worldly pleasures and the worship of Hashem. Only in Eretz Yisrael can one "Walk before Hashem and be perfect!"