by Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer
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Parshas Lech Lecha
"For Hashem's sake"
"Hashem said to Avram: Go for yourself ... to the land I will show you" (Bereishis 12:1).
Rashi explains the phrase, "Lech Lecho - go for yourself ", to mean: for your own benefit for there you will find fame and fortune, as well as progeny. It is well known that Avrohom was tested by Hashem with Ten Trials, which include Lech Lecho as a Trial. The question is posed: If Avrohom was told to travel for his own interests why is it considered a test?
Furthermore, the words Lech Lecha were told to Avrohom again at the time of the Akeida (Bereishis 22:2), to which the Midrash queries which of the two was a greater test. This question is beyond comprehension. How can anyone possibly compare the difficulties of moving to the horror of slaughtering one's own son, let alone his only son whom he's awaited a hundred years?
Perhaps the answer is that the test here for Avrohom wasn't whether he would heed Hashem's command to go; this wasn't much of a test because he was promised everything if he would make the move. The test was what would be his motivation in going: to listen to Hashem or for personal gain. Hashem guaranteed him children and wealth, and then said, pay no attention to all this, and go for My sake! This is indeed an exceedingly difficult task, to the point that the Midrash wonders if it doesn't even surmount the hardship of the Akeida. And how do we know Avrohom passed the trial of Lech Lecha? Because the verse states, "vayeilech Avrohom kasher diber eilov Hashem - Avrohom went as Hashem had told him", not for personal gain, but solely to fulfil Hashem's command.
A comparable thought is brought by Malbim (in his commentary on Melochim) to explain why Dovid Hamelech could not build the Beis Hamikdash, requiring his son Shlomo to build it. The construction of the Beis Hamikdash had to be purely L'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven, with no thought of personal benefit. Since its erection would bring peace throughout the Land of Israel, it would be absolutely impossible for Dovid, who spent his whole life battling Israel's enemies and securing its borders, to build it entirely for Hashem's sake. He would have to be thinking that finally he could stop being a warrior, and settle down to a peaceful kingdom. Since he couldn't assemble it L'shem Shomayim, he couldn't do it. Shlomo, on the other hand, inherited a secure and safe land. He wasn't preoccupied with ensuring peace in Israel, and could concentrate on building a House for the sake of Hashem.
With this, Malbim explains a passage in Melochim (1 5:16-19), where we read how Shlomo Hamelech requested the assistance of Chiram, King of Tyre, to build the Beis Hamikdash. The passage states, "Shlomo sent to Chiram saying, 'you knew my father Dovid was unable to build a house for the name of Hashem, because of the war that surrounded him, until HaShem would subdue our enemies under the soles of my feet. And now Hashem my G-d has granted me rest on all sides - there is no adversary and no misfortune. Therefore I have decided to build a house for the name of Hashem". Why does he repeat the words "for the name of Hashem"? Because we're not talking about the physical act of building, but the proper intention of building, that it should be for Hashem's name, and this was only fulfilled by Shlomo.
Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer, Kollel Beis HaTalmud Yehuda Fishman Institute, Melbourne Australia
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