Abraham the Patriarch was 75 years old and had thousands of followers – people that Abraham taught and how now believed in G-d. Yet at this point, G-d told him to leave!“Leave your country. Leave the place of your birth. Leave the house of your father.”
Why leave and why leave in this order? If Abraham is going somewhere, he will first walk out of his father’s house, then the place of his birth (his city/town), and after some time will finally leave his country. But G-d told him to do the reverse.
In each case, G-d wanted Abraham to leave behind the influences that affected him so that he could start fresh. The influences of one’s country are strong, but not as strong as the influences of the town where one grew up. And the influences that one has from one’s home are the strongest of all.
G-d wanted Abraham to grow, and He knew that if he stayed where he was, the influences of these three entities would be too strong for Abraham to overcome. He had to move and start fresh, free from the encumbrances of his youth.
The Rabbis tell us that the stories of the Patriarchs are not just stories – they are important lessons for our own lives. This incident with Abraham is just as relevant to us in our lives today, as it was to Abraham in his time.
I certainly experienced this in my own life. At the age of 28, I decided to leave my country, leave the place of my city, and even leave my parents’ home, and travel to Israel to start a new life. I enrolled in Yeshivas Ohr Somayach and the rest is history.
“BUT WAIT!” you might say, “Aren’t there excellent yeshivas in New York? Isn’t there even an Ohr Somayach Upstate?
Yes. There are. But that is one of the lessons we learn in this week’s parsha. Sometimes for a person to grow – to grow far beyond what he could imagine – he must change to a new place. And if that new place is the Holy Land, so much the better.
Sometimes a person might not even realize the bad influences that surround him. I’ve been to Orthodox synagogues in New York where the congregants mocked men in Israel who spent their entire day learning Torah – but they did this by quoting gemoras and mishnas and so they thought it was perfectly acceptable to denigrate these people.
I heard Rabbi Yisroel Brog recently describe how secular society influences religious people in the USA – so much so that they think innocent activity such as going on a “kosher dinner cruise” is perfectly acceptable activity for a religious Jew. I was a bit taken aback when I heard this, as I had gone on this dinner cruise 30 years ago. But that just goes to show you the powerful influences a society can have on G-d-fearing Jews – so much so that he doesn’t even realize that there is a problem any longer.
There are places in the USA in which a person could seclude himself and learn Torah, but that was not for me.
I have now spent the majority of my life in the Holy Land (The day of Yom Kippur marked this turning point). I am not the greatest Torah Scholar around, but I understand my responsibilities as a Jew and try to live up to them – something I would not have been able to do in the USA.
Looking to grow? Consider following in the footsteps of Abraham the Patriarch and move from where you are to a place where you can grow.