In this week's parasha Lecha Lecha, Abraham is commanded to leave his homeland and all that he knows, to travel towards the land of Israel. We can only imagine the difficulty wrapped in leaving behind everything one knows and to travel to a new place that one has never even seen. Do we take for granted how hard this very first test we read of Abraham was for him as an individual?
The midrashim tell us about the type of person Abraham was and the strife that he experienced in his very home, living under his father, an idol-worshipper. Despite having such a father, Abraham came to the realization of a one-God at a very early age. Can we imagine how difficult it was for Abraham the individual to grow up in such an environment? To see one reality and yet know, in his heart, that another reality was true?
In fact, if we look at the verses, we notice a peculiarity, it seems that Hashem first spoke to Abram, and only after Abram listened, did Hashem appear to him:
Verse 1: Hashem had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
Verse 4: So Abram left
Verse 7: Hashem appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring [a] I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
The Or Hayim Haqadosh explains that Abrahams constant endeavor to get to know his creator, is something that no one had tried before him. In the ten generations since Noah, not a single human being had recognized God, and so Hashem saw Abram worthy to speak to.
We see that Abram was a person of unparalleled strength, really a unique person in his generation, and perhaps in many generations to come.
We also read:
There is a verse in the parasha that subtly teaches us of Abraham's inner-strength.
"Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Kanaanites were in the land." (Lech-Lecha 12:6)
Seemingly, there is no reason for the verse to discuss that the Kanaanites were in the land of Israel when Abraham traveled there. What does the verse teach us about Abraham Avinou? We see in the prior chapters of the Torah, that the land of Israel was originally given to the descendants of Shem, the son of Noah, the Semites (of which the Jews descended). Kenanan, was the descendant of Ham (a different son of Noah). They generally inherited the lands of Africa. Still here, we see that Kenanan dwelled in the land during this time. The Rabbis tell us Kenanan overthrew the descendants of Shem, and conquered the area.
Why is this important to know?
Abraham passed through a land that was being fought over and no peace was in sight. Yet, he had the trust in the Almighty to continue to fulfill misvot and spread the word of God. He was not worried about his safety. He trusted in God. How did Abraham have all of this internal strength while coming from a very dissenting home?
The Gemara in Masechet Qedoushin teaches us that if a man tells a woman "Half of you is sanctified unto me" that she is not considered sanctified and engaged to the man. The Gemara questions why the holiness from half of the woman not spread throughout her entire body. The Gemara compares the sanctification of Qedoushin to the sanctity of a sacrifice on the Altar. If two individuals jointly owned an animal- if one sanctifies his half of the animal to serve a sacrifice on the Altar, and then later buys the other half of the animal from his partner and sanctifies that half, the animal cannot be brought as a sacrifice. The animal must be sanctified at once and not in two stages.
We learn a tremendous lesson. If holiness is to spread through an entire person, that person must be whole, and not catering to two separate halves, i.e. two different personalities. If a person is to be successful and face the world as a religious person, one must be whole with oneself while in the internal home and in the external world. Abraham was a complete person, despite the difficulty of growing up in his home, so much so that we was able to walk among battling legions as a God-fearing Jew, and be confident and secure.