Parshat Lech Lecha: We Are Searching Souls

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Beginnings are, in many ways, radical. They represent the first spark — the initiation — of something new, the intention of trying with the risk of failing. Beginnings are soaked in uncertainty, dripping with speculation and questions that can only be answered by time itself. Ultimately, it begs the question: What motivates anyone to start anew, to accept the unknown and only have “hope” by your side? In Parshat Lech Lecha, the question takes on new relevance as we peek into the origins of our history: the story of Avraham and Sara.

Parshat Lech Lecha begins with Hashem suddenly instructing Avraham to leave his home and embark on an unknown journey to “the land that I will show you.” Then, the Torah tells us, “Avram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the souls that they had made in Charan, and they set out for the land of Canaan, they came to the land of Canaan” (Bereishis 12:5). One of the striking descriptions in this pasuk (verse) is the “souls that they had made.” Rashi explains that phrase to mean that these “souls” were people that Avraham and Sarah “brought under the wings of the Shechinah (Divine Presence).”

Understanding that figuratively, it means these people became theologically aligned with Avraham and Sarah. On a deeper level, though, it means that the immanent manifestation of Hashem in this world — the way we feel, interact with, and experience Him — became the defining feature of their lives. The wings of the Shechinah signal the compassionate, protective, and loving embrace that Hashem provides in our world through the feminine characterization of the Shechinah. Thus, these people joined Avraham and Sarah, not as mere ideological followers, but rather these people joined them as God-conscious individuals who yearned for a life of Divine connection and service. Avraham and Sarah revealed Hashem to them, and once their hearts and souls felt the experience of the Divine, they knew that this was something real.

The details of this episode would be incredibly interesting, but the Torah avoids any other discussion outside of those few words. One thing that needs further investigation is how Avraham and Sarah were able to even begin speaking with complete strangers about their radical conceptions of Hashem, let alone following through on their likely large promises. There are several pieces by Rav Kook in his Shemoneh Kevatzim that, together, help answer that question.

“In our soul are born Divine lights,” Rav Kook writes,” from the perspective of our spirit, [they are] many forces” (1:164). This is a claim about what foundationally exists within us as human beings, as souls connected to Hashem. In a different piece, he says that the soul “seeks the Divine light. [It seeks] wholeness that is practical and intellectual, emotional and psychological: complete wholeness” (1:235). Those souls yearn to actualize the Divine light and experience the wholeness and oneness of self. Rav Kook’s last piece ties these all together: “It is the Shechinah, which leads [a person] to Divine awareness in its mighty soaring” (Shmoneh Kevatzim 1:147).

Within every person is a searching soul. It yearns for success, meaning, significance, or power — anything to fill its God-sized hole. That is why the people felt so compelled to hear out Avraham and Sarah, because they promised what the soul knows it needs. Once these people felt Hashem’s presence in their lives, they experientially and intuitively knew that it was true. The wings of the Shechinah cloaked them, and they finally found what they were looking for.

About the Author
Sruli Fruchter is a senior at Yeshiva University studying International and Global Affairs. He is passionate about Torah, self-growth, and bringing Hashem into every aspect of our lives. Sruli has vast experience in international relations, is the Editor in Chief of The Commentator, and the Host of the Soul Life Podcast, which can be found on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
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