Parashat Lech Lecha- Growth Spurts
Parashat Lech-Lecha is named for G-d’s command to Abraham with which this Parasha begins: "Lech Lecha Me’arsecha…" – to "go forth" from his homeland and settle in the Land of Israel.
The Rabbis list this command as one of the ten difficult tests which Abraham was given, and withstood, as he was required to leave his home and go journey to and settle in a foreign land. The final, and most difficult, test was that of Akedat Yishak – when he was told to sacrifice his beloved son. (Of course, in the end, G-d told him to withdraw his sword.) That test, like the test of moving to the Land of Israel, was also formulated with the expression "Lech Lecha," as G-d told Abraham, "Lech Lecha El Eretz Ha’Moriya" – to "go forth" to Moriya, the future site of the Bet Ha’mikdash, to sacrifice his son (Bereshit 22:2).
What exactly does the expression "Lech Lecha" mean? The literal translation of this phrase is "Go for you." But what precisely does this mean?
The Arizal (Rav Yishak Luria, 1534-1572) explained that every person is given a unique, distinctive soul, such that every person is given a unique, distinctive spiritual goal in life. Our ultimate goal is to perfect our souls – but since each soul is different, each person’s goals are going to be different. We each face a unique set of challenges and struggles over the course of our lives, in accordance with the particular needs of our soul, with the particular mission we are to fulfill.
We might draw an analogy to eyeglasses. Each person’s eyeglasses are unique, tailormade for the particular deficiencies of his or her eyesight. If we lose our glasses, we cannot just borrow somebody else’s, because each prescription is different and unique. By the same token, each person has a unique set of spiritual challenges, which correspond to the unique deficiencies in his or he soul. We all face different struggles, and so what’s right for one person is not necessarily suitable for another person.
This, the Arizal explained, is the meaning of the expression "Lech Lecha" – "go for you." When we are given a test in life, this is an opportunity for us to fulfill our unique mission in this world. Every time we encounter some challenge, it is a chance to realize our destiny, to take the next step in perfecting our souls and thereby achieving the purpose for which we were created. And so life’s tests are referred to with the phrase "Lech Lecha" – "Go for you," because they are for us, for our benefit, enabling us to fulfill our unique mission on earth. (Indeed, Rashi explains "Lech Lecha" to mean "for your benefit.")
Significantly, the word "Nisayon" ("test") stems from the word "Nes," which means "flag" (as in the prayer, "Ve’sa Nes Le’kabetz Galuyotenu" – "and raise a flag to assemble our exiles"). The reason is because the purpose of a "Nisayon" is to elevate us, to lift us high up like a flag. We should not resent challenges; we should embrace them. When we are confronted with a challenge and we overcome it, we undergo a "growth spurt." We are catapulted to greater heights. This is precisely the purpose of life’s challenges – to raise us higher.
Every challenge we are given in life is an opportunity – an opportunity to develop our unique, precious soul, and to realize the unique, vitally important purpose for which we were brought into this world. Rather than bemoan the difficulties and hardships that we encounter over the course of life, let us instead welcome them as opportunities to grow, and seize each such opportunity to the very best of our ability.