Sally Mayer
Rosh Midrasha, Ohr Torah Stone's Midreshet Lindenbaum

Lech Lecha: Making the Choice

Why did Hashem choose Avraham?

At the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha, it seems that Hashem’s command to Avraham comes out of the blue: “Go forth from your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” We don’t know anything about Avraham except his lineage, which was just described at the end of the last parasha. The question becomes even stronger when we compare this to the beginning of Parashat Noach, when we hear very clearly why Noach is chosen to build the ark and survive the flood: “Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation; Noach walked with God.”

The Midrash famously describes how Avraham as a young child recognized Hashem, and even tried to convince his father of the falsehood of idolatry, breaking his idols and placing a hammer in the hand of one of the idols to highlight how silly it is to think that the idols have power. However, in the simple reading of the Torah, there is no mention of this. So why was Avraham chosen?

Furthermore, at the end of all the lists of the generations from Noach through Avraham at the end of parashat Noach, we find a detail that is often overlooked. Terach, Avraham’s father, had actually set out from Ur Kasdim to travel to Cana’an, but after reaching Haran, they stayed there. Why did Terach leave Ur Kasdim and set out for Cana’an? And why did he stop the journey?

All of this leads to a fascinating possibility: perhaps Hashem called many different people to the mission of “lech lecha,” of leaving their homes and families and following Hashem to a new place. Most of them probably didn’t hear the call, or ignored it because it seemed too difficult. Maybe Terach himself heard this call and set out for Cana’an, but for some reason stopped the journey and never made it. Perhaps what makes Avraham into the chosen one is that he heeded the call, set out, and actually achieved the goal, reaching the land of Cana’an. This is Avraham’s first test – the willingness to heed the call. He goes on to many more challenges after his “Aliyah” – trouble making a living as he encounters a famine, the challenge of Sara’s being taken by Pharoah, war as he fights to redeem his nephew Lot from captivity – Avraham had a tough Aliyah! But he remained in the land despite adversity, following Hashem and His plan.

The message to each of us is to listen for Hashem’s call – to try to discern what we are meant to do in a particular situation, and in our lives in general, and to follow through and complete that calling, becoming closer to Hashem and making a difference in our homes, communities and the world at large. What made Avraham the chosen one is that he chose to follow Hashem.

About the Author
Rabbanit Sally Mayer serves as Rosh Midrasha at Ohr Torah Stone's Midreshet Lindenbaum and teaches Talmud and Halacha at the midrasha. Before moving to Israel with her family, Sally was a member of the core faculty that built Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, NJ, where she chaired the Talmud department and directed Israel Guidance. She has worked as an editor for the new Koren translation of the Talmud and served as Education Director at The Jewish Center, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A Midreshet Lindenbaum alumna, Sally holds a BA from Stern College, an MA in Medieval Jewish History from Yeshiva University, and is a graduate of the Drisha Institute Scholars Circle Program. She lives in Neve Daniel, with her husband and their children.
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