Why did Hashem not command Avrohom to go?
(12,1) “And Hashem said to Avrom: Go forth ‘lecha’ from your land…”
The word ‘lecha’ seems to be superfluous. Rashi paid attention to this and explained that it means “for your benefit and for your good”, but to my mind we can explain it according to how Rashi explained the same superfluous word in parshas Shelach Lecha, that it means according to your mind. That is, Hashem was saying to Moshe: I am not commanding you (to send spies), but if you wish, you may send. Here also, the meaning is that Hashem is saying to Avrohom to forth according to his mind.
The explanation of this is that we hold that reward is not given for mitzvos in this world, but I have already written elsewhere that this refers specifically to someone who does a mitzvah that he has been commanded to do. But someone who voluntarily does a mitzvah does receive reward in this world. Therefore, here also Hashem said to Avrohom that He is not commanding him to go, but rather He is advising him to do so. Because if He commands him it would not be possible to reward him in this world. Therefore, He told him to go according to his will, that is, voluntarily, and then it would be possible for him to receive reward for this.
This is what the posuk means: “lech lecha”, go according to your mind, not as an obligation, so that I can reward you for this in this world and “make you a great nation”. But if I would command you then I would be able to give you this reward in this world.
And it is possible to say that this was also the intention of Rashi when he explained that it meant “for your benefit and for your good”, according to what the Maharsha wrote on the gemora Sotah on that which is written there “R. Simlai taught: Why did Moshe desire to enter Eretz Yisrael?”, because only someone who has been commanded in a mitzvah is forbidden to do it in order to receive a reward, but someone who voluntarily performs a mitzvah can do so with the intention that he should receive a reward. Therefore, here also Hashem said to Avrohom: Go, according to your mind, because I am not commanding you, but if you wish, you may go. And the reason why I am not specifically commanding you, is because I want you to do it voluntarily so that you will be able to intend it to be “for your benefit and for your good”, as Rashi explained.
What additional message did Hashem impart to Avrohom?
(12,1) “And Hashem said to Avrom: Go forth from your land…”
Behold, if a person decides to go to a certain place, even though he has not yet set out, people say about him that he going to such-and-such place, because he has decided to travel there, and is preparing everything he needs for the journey. But this is only if he makes known his plans to travel. However, if he hides his intention and doesn’t tell anybody, then he would be called going only from the actual time that he goes, and not before.
Now, it is the way of the world that if an only child, or an extremely important member of a family, wants to uproot his dwelling to go to some far off place, then his family and relatives will try very hard to prevent him from leaving. So what should a person do when he desires to leave but he is very afraid that he will not be able to withstand the great pressure of his family? He has no choice but to conceal the matter from them and not tell them that he is going.
Here too, Hashem was concerned that Avrohom would be afraid of the pressure from his family and his father’s house, and therefore wish for his going to be concealed so that it will not be made known to them. But Hashem wanted to publicise his going for several reasons. One reason is in order that Lot will go with him, and this is according to the opinion in the Midrash that Hashem was angry with Avrohom for separating himself from Lot, from which we see that Hashem wanted that Lot should be with him. Another reason we can say is since this going was a trial for Avrohom in order to increase his reward, if he would go covertly it would not be so much of a trial. But if he publicises it and they pressure him not to go and nevertheless Avrohom does not listen to them and goes, then the trial would be much greater and he would have more reward.
This is what the posuk says “Go forth from your land” - whilst you are still in your land, from there go forth “to the land which I will show you”, “and from your birth place and from your father’s house”, whilst you are still there you should ponder your travel plans, in order that you will clearly publicise your going.
With this we can better understand what is written afterwards “and Avrom went as Hashem had spoken to him, and Lot went with him…and Avrom took his wife, Sarai and Lot, his brother‘s son…and they went to go to the land of Canaan”. There seems to be unnecessary repetition here - after it already said that “Avrom went” why did it repeat again “and Avrom took…and they went”? But according to what I wrote above it is clear, because the first posuk is saying that Avrohom listened to Hashem, and that even when he was still in his home he ‘went’ to the land by publicising his going, and this is “and Avrom went as Hashem had spoken to him”. And as a consequence of this publicity “Lot went with him”, that is, Lot went with him since he was aware of his going. And the later posuk, “Avrom took his wife, Sarai…and they went”, refers to their actual going to the land of Canaan.
How is mentioning the G-d of Yitzchok considered a blessing for Avrohom?
(12,2) “And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.”
Chazal taught in the gemora Nedarim that one who makes a vow not to derive any benefit from the offspring of Avrohom, he is forbidden to derive benefit from a Yisrael, but permitted to derive benefit from the nations. And on who makes a vow not to receive benefit from a descendant of Noach is permitted to benefit from a Yisrael, since Yisrael are not called the descendants of Noach, because once Avrohom sanctified himself they were called after his name. From here it is clear that from Avrohom and onwards they were not called descendants of Noach, but rather the offspring of Avrohom, and all of his children trace their genealogy back to him. And it seems to me that the Avrohom only merited this from the trial of his going and onwards, because he withstood his test to go from his land and from his birth place and from his father’s house, and distanced himself from them. Therefore, Hashem gave him his reward that he became like a newly created being, and all of his children are called after his name, and not after the name of Terach, his father.
Now, Chazal taught “and I will bless you” is a reference to our saying in the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer “the G-d of Yitzchok, and “I will make your name great” is a reference to our saying “the G-d of Ya’akov”. You might think that the blessing should be concluded by mentioning all of them, therefore the Torah writes “and you shall be a blessing” - with you they shall conclude, and not with them. But this is astonishing - was Avrohom so concerned about his honour if the blessing would conclude with all of them that Hashem needed to promise him that they would not conclude the blessing with all of them? Also, how is all this a continuation and consequence of what it says in the beginning, “go forth from your land…”?
A further difficulty which arises from this teaching of Chazal is that if the allusion of “I will bless you and I will make your name great” refers to Yitzchok and Ya’akov, then they are the ones who are blessed and not Avrohom, so how could Hashem say to Avrohom “I will bless you and make your name great”? However, since Chazal also taught that grandchildren are considered like children and all the powers of the son come from the father, therefore when Yitzchok and Ya'akov are blessed it is considered an honour for Avrohom, and it is as if he himself is being blessed. And this is what it means “and I will bless you” refers to the saying of the G-d of Yitzchok, that when they say the G-d of Yitzchok it is considered a blessing also for you. And similarly “I will make your name great” refers to the saying of the G-d of Ya’akov, that when they say the G-d of Ya’akov it is considered an aggrandisement for you, because their honour is your honour.
But there is still remains a difficulty, because either way we look at it - if the honour of the son is not considered the honour of the father, then the honour of Yitzchok and Ya’akov is not considered the honour of Avrohom. But if the honour of the son is the honour of the father, then also the honour of Avrohom should be considered the honour of Terach. Yet according to what we have explained, everything is attributed back to Avrohom and no further.
This is what Chazal were coming to answer, that “I will bless you” is a reference to our saying “the G-d of Yitzchok, and “I will make your name great” is a reference to our saying “the G-d of Ya'akov”, and this is all attributed back to Avrohom. You might think that the blessing should be concluded by mentioning all of them. That is, if the honour of the son is attributed to the father, if so the honour of Avrohom will be attributed to Terach and his forefathers, and in truth they are not fitting for this. And therefore it would be better if the honour was only each one for himself, and we should therefore conclude the blessing with all of them. Therefore, the Torah concludes “and you will be a blessing” - with you alone the blessing is concluded, to show that all the honour belongs to you. Only you are their forefather. And the reason is what we explained at the beginning, that Hashem said to Avrohom “Go forth from your land and from your birth place and from your father’s house”, and because of the great trial that he distanced himself from his father and from his family he merited this, that everything was his, and would not be called on the name of Terach, but rather on his name. Therefore, “I will bless you and make your name great” by our saying the G-d of Yitzchok and the G-d of Ya’akov, and this will be a blessing and an aggrandisement for you.
Where do we see that Avrohom did not become arrogant because of all the greatness that Hashem promised him?
(12,4) “And Avrohom went as Hashem had spoken to him, and Lot went with him…”
What does the phrase “as Hashem had spoken to him” come to teach us? It should have said simply that Avrohom went, and we would know automatically that he went as Hashem had spoken to him. Also, why did the Torah choose the word “spoken”? Since earlier it wrote “and Hashem said to Avrohom”, it should have used the same expression here, and write “as Hashem had said to him”.
But it seems that the explanation is that I might have thought that since Avrohom had heard everything which Hashem had promised to do for him - “and I will make you a great nation…” perhaps as a result he might become arrogant, G-d forbid. And if he became arrogant, he might, G-d forbid, come to other sins - as Chazal said, “one sin leads to another sin”. But in truth Avrohom did not become arrogant at all, but rather he fulfilled the mitzvos of Hashem as before.
This is what the posuk is saying, that even though Avrohom had heard all the great reward which Hashem was prepared to give him he didn’t change his ways, but rather “Avrom went” in the way of the Torah “as Hashem had spoken to him” already, and did not change at all from what he had been. Not only that, but “Lot went with him” - Lot also went in the way of the Torah, and as long as he remained with Avrohom he was righteous.