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In this week's parsha Hashem commands Avraham to leave his homeland and go to a place that he would be shown (12;1). According to most commentators, this was the first of 10 tests for Avraham Avinu in which he showed complete faith in Hashem (see: Pirkei Avos, 5;3).
Firstly, the torah (12;2-3) relates that Avraham was promised fame, wealth and children were he to leave. Therefore, how was it considered a "test" for Avraham to leave?
Secondly, Rashi (11;28) relates that Avraham had been threatened to either deny the existence of Hashem or be thrown into a fiery furnace and he chose to be thrown into the fire. Therefore, if he already showed that he was willing to give up his life for Hashem then what kind of test was it for him to leave home?
Thirdly, according to many commentators, the incident in which Avraham showed he was willing to give up his life for Hashem by the fiery furnace wasn't even considered one of the 10 tests. What's the reasoning for this? Surely it took a tremendous amount of faith in Hashem for Avraham to sacrifice his life for Him!?!
Fourthly, the Medresh (Bereishis Rabbah) states that Avraham's test to leave his homeland was the hardest of
the 10 tests. However, how is it that Avraham's test to leave home was even harder than sacrificing Yitzchak (see: chapter 22)-especially considering all the great rewards that he was promised for leaving (12;2-3)?
Fifthly, the torah (12;3) states: "and the one who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you." Rashi (12;3) explains that the simple meaning behind the verse is that Avraham was a role model, as "A man says to his son: Be like Avraham." However, if Avraham served as a role model for everyone then why does the pasuk (12;3) imply that people were cursing him by saying "and the one who curses you"? People don't curse their role models!?!
Sixthly, Rashi (12;1) states that when Hashem said "go for yourself," what He meant was "go for your pleasure and for your benefit." However, in the very next pasuk (12;2) the torah tells us that Hashem promised Avraham a lot of great rewards. Therefore, isn't it obvious that Avraham was going to receive pleasure/benefit for leaving? What was the purpose of Hashem telling Avraham "go for your benefit" if there was clearly a lot of benefit to be received?
Seventhly, why didn't Hashem just tell Avraham to leave Ur Kasdim instead of saying (12;1) "Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house"? The torah doesn't waste any words! What was the purpose of the long description of Ur Kasdim?
Lastly, the torah (12;5) states that Avraham and Sarah "made" people in Haran. How is that to be understood?
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig explains that in the first pasuk (12;1) Hashem was teaching Avraham that he should learn how to give without receiving something in return. Meaning, Hashem wanted Avraham to give up his homeland and derive pleasure from it (as Rashi, 12;1, states: "for your pleasure and for your benefit"). The test was for Avraham to leave his homeland was to see if giving was a pleasure for him. Rabbi Zweig explains that it's very hard for people to derive pleasure and actually enjoy giving to other people-but one who is able to do so has the ability to control their own happiness as there's never a shortage of places to give! Therefore, Hashem told Avraham to go for his own benefit/pleasure before telling him about the rewards he would receive because He wanted to see if Avraham would be willing to give without getting back something in return. Additionally,
Rabbi Zweig explains that even though Avraham was willing to give up his life for Hashem that still wasn't considered a test, as what Hashem was really looking for is to see if he loved giving. The definition of a jew, explains Rabbi Zweig, is one who derives pleasure from giving. Jews are supposed to represent giving. Therefore, in order for Avraham to become a leader of the jewish people he needed to prove to Hashem that he was a giver. By risking his life for Hashem he showed dedication towards Him-but he failed to show a love to give.
Similarly, Rabbi Zweig explains Hashem gave a whole long description describing Ur Kasdim in order to show Avraham exactly how much he was giving up. Then, after realizing how much he was giving up, Avraham had to show a love for giving by accepting the test even though he had yet to be promised any rewards.Furthermore, Onkelos translates the pasuk (12;5) which states that Avraham "made" people to mean that he committed them to the torah. The Gemara states that before Avraham the world was void--for there were no people. And how was that? Rabbi Zweig explains that a person is considered reborn when they make a commitment to Hashem. Meaning, until one gives their word to Hashem they aren't considered a "real person." As a result, the torah (12;5) states that Avraham and Sarah "made" people because they caused thousands of people to convert and commit to Hashem.
Further, Rabbi Zweig explains that the torah (12;3) refers to the people who would view Avraham as a role model as "families of the earth"-meaning, people who are together. Rabbi Zweig explains that a family can't get along if no one is willing to give. Therefore, people told their children "be like Avraham"-meaning, they should give to others and derive pleasure from it like he did by leaving his homeland.
Lastly, Rabbi Zweig explains that the test of leaving his homeland was harder than sacrificing Yitzchak because the first test ("Lech Lecha") made him go from a taker to a giver, whereas sacrificing Yitzchak was simply a test in how much was he willing to give. The greatness of Avraham's test to leave his house was that it required him to transform himself from a taker to a giver. After the first test Avraham had already become a giver, so even sacrificing Yitzchak was easy in comparison to leaving home.