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G-d said to Abram… "Go for yourself… to the land that I will show you… and you shall be a blessing" (12:1-2).
What is the meaning of "You shall be a blessing?"
Rashi explains that Abraham himself shall be a source of blessing. That means that he has the power to bless whoever he chooses, and that G-d will cooperate with his wish. Thus "you shall be a blessing" means that you shall have the power to bless with effect.
The Sforno interprets "you shall be a blessing" differently. The blessing is that you shall be a source of blessing to G-d Himself, by your fulfilling your ultimate destiny. He will be proud of you and feel good because of you: as the Sfrono repeatedly quotes in his commentary on Genesis: "G-d will be happy with his Creation" (Psalms 104:32, see also Berachot 7a). You will be a blessing to your Creator because you are moving His Creation forward by influencing humanity to recognize G-d, and tune in to G-d. "Go for yourself to the land I shall show you" did not mean Canaan, because he knew already that he was travelling to that destination (11:31). "Go for yourself" means "go and do what you are here to do" - go to the specific part of Canaan which I will reveal to you in due course, and where I shall appear to you with further guidance towards your destiny (as in12:6).
Sforno's understanding of this passage implies a great message to Mankind. The masters of Mussar constantly emphasize the importance of "Know Yourself" - know who you really are, and what your purpose in life is as an individual. And it seems to me that virtually everybody who has developed his or her gifts in life to full capacity and with the greatest beneficial influence on others has been (and often suffered) through the Lech-Lecha "go for yourself" phase. It involves having the faith to turn away from the familiar and the secure, and to strike out into the lonely uncertainty of the unknown: a phase that can take many years.
Indeed, the purpose of life is knowing and understanding what your own Lech-Lecha actually is - and acting on it.
One of my mentors put it this way:
"Are you a born painter. A scientist? Were you put on this earth to be an initiator of peace? In the end, the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don't do it… If you were meant to cure cancer, write a symphony… and you don't do it, you not only hurt and destroy yourself and your children, but you hurt me and you hurt the planet. You shame the angels that watch over you, and you spite the Almighty who created you, and only you, with the unique gifts for the sole purpose of moving the Creation further along in its path back to G-d. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention… It is a gift to the world and every being in it. Do not cheat us of your contribution".
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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