In this week's Parsha we read the inspiring story about Avraham waking up one day, hearing G-d's voice, packing everything up, and leaving everything behind to go to the land of Israel.
"Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." (Bereshit 12:1)
Hashem's next sentence (12:2-3) to Avraham teaches us that this was not just a commandment to depart on an "unknown" journey or a leap in the dark. Hashem actually states that the purpose of the move is for establishing a nation together with receiving great rewards:
"And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [you shall] be a blessing.
And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you"
Hashem also assures that this whole journey is for Avraham's sake and benefit. Rashi explains (12:1) in the opening words - "Lech lecha" (the literal meaning is "go for you"), "Lecha" - "להנאתך ולטובתך"- for your own sake and benefit.
If it is obvious that Hashem specifically promised great blessings to Avraham and even said told him to go - "for your own sake and benefit", then where exactly does the great test of Abraham's faith come into play here?
The answer has to do with the present reality in which Abraham found himself.
Promises and the Reality
Apparently, there was a huge gap between the promise for the future and the difficult reality that Abraham found himself in.
As far as the promise to have children and a great family with descendants- Sarah was currently barren at an old age (Bereshit 11:30).
As far as the promise to receive the land - the powerful Canaanites were in control of the land at the time (Bereshit 12:6, Rashi).
As far as the promise to be wealthy- there was a famine in Israel which forced Avraham to leave for Egypt (Rashi 11:10) and even take loans (Rashi 13:3).
The real emuna (faith) is being able to look beyond the present obstacles and imagine the future. How many new olim have been surprised to see that the Israel they dreamed of is just a bit different than the reality of the Israel that they landed in? Avraham and Sarah's life mission was now apparent; to devote all of their time and efforts to seeing the realization of the Divine promises . It now became their responsibility to struggle hard in seeing that the purpose and goals of the entire journey will come to fruition and succeed.
The "Does He?" Question vs/ the "To what extent?" question
Many people ponder the "Does He" question- Does God exist? They will demand proof for Hashem's existence. In modern day Israel, the majority of the population believes in G-d. Therefore, the more relevant question people are dealing with is - "How much or to what extent does G-d exist in my life?".
Reading this week's parsha can show us the amazing development in Abraham's life regarding this exact question. Abraham advances step by step to realizing and increasing Hashem's presence in his life. We'll try to follow the story closely.
Avraham Avinu, being born to an idol worshipping family, reaches the conclusion that Hashem exists at age 40. (Rambam, Hilchot Avoda Zara 1:3, Rashi Bereshit 11:28).
At age 75 (only!) Hashem speaks to Avraham for the first time with- "Lech lecha" (12:1). This is his first revelation from Above.
A few pesukim later (12:7), Hashem "appears to him", which is more than merely an abstract voice. The Ramban (12:7) explains that Avraham, as a result of His appearance, builds a mizbeach (altar) to thank Hashem for this "upgrade" from a lower level of "Ruach Hakodesh '' (Holy Spirit) to an actual prophecy.
Later on in this parsha a special covenant takes place- known as"Brit Bein Habetarim'' (Bereshit 15:1-21). The phrase used to describe this pact in the Torah is "Machaze", meaning a vision or show. This brings Avraham to a new high point in his life. This isn't just his personal understanding that Hashem exists, this isn't merely a prophecy with a Divine voice, rather it is an actual contract with Hashem.
At the end of the parsha (Bereshit 17:13), Avraham sets an even higher standard for Hashem's involvement in his life and for the future generations for entirety:
".....and my covenant shall be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant", a reference to circumcision.
By our fulfillment of the 'brit milah', Hashem's presence in our life extends all the way to our physical existence, involving our flesh.
In short, Avraham and Sarah teach us two very valuable lessons about the life of emunah.
1. When the reality is far from what we were promised, faith is invaluable.
2. It's not just about 'does He exist' but rather- "How MUCH does He exist in my life".