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May 21, 2024

Lech Lecha (Go Forth) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion

Lech Lecha2

Genesis, 12:1-17:27
This Week’s Torah Portion | Oct 22 – Oct 28, 2023- 7 Cheshvan – 13 Cheshvan, 5784

In A Nutshell

The portion, Go Forth, begins with Abraham being commanded to go to the land of Canaan. When Abraham reaches the land of Canaan, the hunger forces him to go down to Egypt, where Pharaoh’s servants take Sarai, his wife. In Pharaoh’s house, Abraham presents her as his sister, fearing for his life. The Creator punishes Pharaoh with infections and diseases, and he is forced to give Sarai back to Abraham.

When Abraham returns to the Canaan, a fight breaks out between the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle and the herdsmen of Abraham’s cattle, after which they part ways.

A war breaks out between four kings from among the rulers of Babylon, and five kings from the land of Canaan, Lot is taken captive, and Abraham sets out to save him.

The Creator makes a covenant with Abraham, “the covenant of the pieces” (or “covenant between the parts”), which is the promise of the continuation of his descendants and the promise of the land.

Sarai cannot have children, so she offers Abraham her maid, Hagar, and they have a child named Ishmael.

Abraham makes the covenant of the circumcision with the Creator and is commanded to circumcise himself and all the males in his household. His name changes from Abram to Abraham, and his wife’s name changes from Sarai to Sarah.

At the end of the portion, the Creator promises Sarah that she would have a son whose name will be Isaac.

 Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman

All the stories of the portion before us happen within us. In the correct perception of reality, this world does not exist, and neither do history or geography, nor the story of the portion. All of them are occurrences that take place within us.

The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that perception of reality is a profound matter, relating to our innermost psychology, to our senses and to our physical structure.

The Torah speaks the truth about the way we developed, and all the people and events that it describes are our mental forces. Abraham, for instance, is the tendency to develop toward spirituality, the desire to approach and discover the Creator.

The story of Abraham in Babylon is really the revelation that only one force exists and manages the world, and the desire to discover that force. Anyone who feels the desire to discover who is managing one’s fate and why, or is asking, “What is the meaning of my life?” is at the same starting point of Abraham, and the force of Abraham is working within that person.

By thinking what he must do, Abraham felt that he had to advance to the next state. He actually felt Nature prodding him forward, telling him, “Go forth from your land and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” Where? To where I will show you, where you will find the balance, where you can realize yourself.

Maimonides and other Kabbalists wrote that this is how Abraham moved to the land of Canaan with his entire household, and thousands of the people who left Babylon along with him, and which he established as the “house of Abraham.” When Abraham reached the land of Canaan, he reached a new desire, called “Canaan.”

The word Eretz (land) comes from the word Ratzon (desire). Abraham discovers that that desire does not sufficiently promote him; he felt hunger and did not know what would sustain him and keep him at this point of the land of Canaan. Because the land of Canaan is a land of bestowal, while he was still not in a state where he could achieve bestowal, a new situation formed, which compelled him to be attached to the will to receive. This is what made him go down to Egypt.

A big, new desire appeared here, where one feels that more steps with the intensifying ego are required because the ego is shifting from a state of “Babylon is not enough.” As the ego grows, it demands satisfaction. But this arouses fear that if one should work with the ego with the intentions to bestow called “Abraham,” it will not be enough to keep oneself and thus one might ruin the intention.

This is why a person is unwilling to work with the ego, the obstruction that is growing within. The little desire within tells that person, “This is my sister, not my wife.” A person becomes ready to completely abstain from the whole of the desire, called Sarah, and remain solely in the intention to bestow called Abraham.

Because of the growing ego within us, we lack the sensation of fulfillment. On the contrary, we feel increasingly deficient and empty. Pharaoh is the state imprinted within us that asks, “What do I get out of it?” It seems that the current state is worse than the one that I had before, which is why Pharaoh tells Abraham to take back the desire called Sarah because he could not handle it. Pharaoh wanted to remain in corporeality, as he was, while that desire, Sarah, extended from spirituality.

These two parts within us are in a constant struggle. They alternate—Abraham grows and falls, and then Pharaoh grows and falls. It resembles walking, stepping with the right foot, then the left foot, and it makes little difference what we call them because they acquire different names on different degrees.

When Abraham and his entourage return to the land of Canaan, a problem arises between the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle and the herdsmen of Abraham’s cattle. The word Lot means curse. A question arises—“Which way should one go, in the direction of the aim to receive, or in the direction of the aim to bestow?” Once again, one becomes perplexed and does not know what to do. This is the quarrel over the place and the wells. In spite of everything, one chooses to distinguish between the two forces—reception and bestowal.

This teaches us that during our development there are many events where we must look into our egos and see how it is cresting in us. And yet, we must disagree with the direction of the evil, but we must also refrain from ruining it. Rather, we should abstain from it, as Abraham abstained from Lot, who later saved him from Sodom.

These are the bilateral changes that happen within us. We use our bad Kelim (vessels), as well as our good ones, our good qualities and our bad qualities, and all the thoughts we need, because we learn from that.

When Abraham concludes the quarrel with the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle, he wages war on the four kings that live in the country. Once again we see that as one develops, one is in a constant struggle. Although the kings, the great forces, the persons’ big desires, do not allow one to enter the land of Canaan and encircle Canaan, a person wishes to achieve a certain spiritual degree in which one begins to feel the Creator, the common force of Nature, the eternity and perfection in Nature. However, it is impossible because those Malchuts, those kings, are standing in the way, blocking it.

Following this war the Creator appears to Abraham and says to him that he is making a covenant with him, and this land will truly belong to the quality of Abraham that is growing and developing atop the quality of Pharaoh, atop the wars and on top of Lot. Now that quality is big and strong enough; it is sufficiently established to enter with it into the land of Canaan. This is the quality that allows one to achieve the purpose of creation, the revelation of the Creator, and to achieve Dvekut (adhesion) with the Creator.

In order to actually attain the next degree, the contact with the Creator, we need a force that will “beget” the next degree. It is we who beget the new states, but the will to receive, which is Sarah, still cannot be the force that is giving birth under the quality of Abraham. The quality of Abraham is still weak in its intention to bestow, and cannot deliver from the will to receive called Sarah. However, it can do it with the right line, the force of the right, but only with that part of it called Hagar. The offshoot of that is Ishmael—a force that belongs to the right of Bina, which is called the Klipa (shell/peel) of the right.

In the end, following the covenant and the numerous corrections, Abraham comes to a state where he can also work with the general will to receive, called Sarah. This is when Sarah gives birth, hence the great joy in the portion.

Abraham is told to go from Babylon to Canaan. What does it mean to move from one desire to the next, and what does it feel like in the land of Canaan?

We are in a process of constant changes, except we are not aware of it. The Torah speaks of the changes we go through consciously, having decided that we really want to change our desires. The will to receive is our entire substance. We shift from one desire to the next, from land to land. There is a maxim that says, “change of place, change of luck.” A “place” is the desire from which we observe the world. The desire is everything; it is the foundation from which we embark on every action.

Each name or word that is mentioned actually denotes a desire. In the wisdom of Kabbalah we speak of Aviut (thickness), Masach (screen), and Reshimot (recollections) that determine the state of the Neshama (soul). Here, too, we are speaking of the same changes we go through, except the terminology is different.

Go forth” means that a person should always feel that the beginning of the path is Yesod (foundation), and one advances precisely when shifting from state to state. One must carry out those instructions and move from state to state until one arrives at the end of one’s correction. Therefore, “go forth” is the act that the Creator expects us to perform.

This means that we can move only if we understand that change can happen only through unity. The whole difference between spiritual degrees is that one becomes increasingly connected, and connects all the elements within one to the attainment of the goal. Nothing is created without a reason. We need all of our mental powers: Pharaoh, Lot, the Abraham’s cattle, Lot’s cattle, the kings that are in the land, Balaam, Balak, Haman, the wicked, as well as the righteous. In the end, the Torah teaches us how to connect all our mental powers and become a complete individual.

What is the meaning of the land of Canaan with regard to the desires?

Canaan is a land that precedes the land of Israel. It is one of the degrees, the one before the land of Israel.

Is a person already on the way to spirituality if the point in his or her heart has awakened?

Yes. Once the point awakens in a person’s heart, he or she cannot stay in “Babylon.” Such a person must leave Babylon and ascend to the degree of the land of Canaan. One progresses along with those who join in—those desires that one can work with—and rises to another degree, where one thinks in the direction of bestowal and Hesed (mercy), in the direction that Abraham symbolizes.

Go Forth, to Correct Yourself

Since the Creator saw his awakening and his desire, He immediately revealed Himself to him and told him, “Go forth,” to know yourself and to correct yourself. Meaning, he should stop weighing the upper forces but raise MAN and extend a high Zivug on the Masach that appeared to him, by which he will be rewarded with extending Daat for himself and correct himself.

Zohar for AllLech Lecha (Go Forth), item 28

Attaining a higher degree is done by the Aviut (thickness) of the new desire, and through the intention over that desire. If a person performs a Zivug de Hakaa (coupling of striking), he or she achieves the revelation of the upper light at the degree in which the Zivug was made.

What does it mean that the Creator saw his awakening?

A person receives the awakening from the overall plan of creation. Each of us has a time in which we begin to awaken. The general “engine” of all the souls turns like a counter and issues orders to each one. All of a sudden, you wake up, you want, you are being led. You are given an awakening to spirituality once, or twice, or thrice in life, and you must respond; you must take initiative and begin to advance on your own.

What happens when a person discovers that he or she cannot advance any longer?

When you suddenly begin to discover that you cannot advance in spirituality, it means you are once again falling into the egotistical desire, into Pharaoh. You are descending to Egypt once again.

It is fine, and it is what should happen. You need to intensify your ego in order to advance, as this is all your matter. It is all the substance of creation—the great will to receive. Without Pharaoh, you will not be able to reach Mount Sinai.

You have to have a “mountain” of evil, hatred, which you took from Pharaoh. The whole of the desire that appeared in you became a mountain, around which you feel your hatred of others. At that point you tell yourself, “I have to have the Torah; I have no choice; I have to have the force that will correct me, which is called ‘the light that reforms.’” The progress is always done from two directions: on one side is the growing egotistical desire; on the other side, one must see that one has the intention to bestow.

What is the Klipa of the right, and how come Abraham, the quality of Hesed, begot a Klipa?

The quality of Abraham is only just beginning; it is not entirely corrected. That is, it is the initial desire of a person, which is clear, lacking Aviut. When one connects to oneself Aviut, in order to advance, the right and left connect through the scrutinies of the desire. A person must cut and scrutinize with which desires one can work, and with which desires one still cannot, although later one will correct them in more advanced degrees.

Moreover, by begetting his son with his partial desire called Hagar, the conditions change. Sarai becomes Sarah, and Abram becomes Abraham. These are not just different names. Through these corrections we arrive at a state where we work with a new, different desire known as Sarah, and a new, different intention known as Abraham, who begets the beginning of the nation.

Is Isaac the beginning of the nation?

Not only Isaac. There are three lines altogether: the left, right, and middle line, which is Israel. Additionally, there are two Klipot (shells/peels): Ishmael on the right, and Esau on the left. It does not mean that they are completely flawed, but only that in time they, too, will be corrected.

The Klipa of the right, Ishmael, is still fighting against everyone, even today.

It will remain so until the end of correction, until we all mingle together and unite.

Does circumcision mean the “cutting” into the desire?

Yes, but the circumcision is more than just the cutting; it is also the Klipot, which are desires that you cannot work with. For now, they are Klipot, until they become Kedusha (holiness). The problem is in you; you cannot work with such intense desires with the aim to bestow, since if you receive pleasures you will take them to yourself instead of bestowing them to others.

What does it mean to make a covenant with the Creator?

Making a covenant with the Creator means that a person makes whatever pledge is required. The covenant is a special, inner reorganization that allows one—along with one’s forces—to position oneself in a situation where one will never make mistakes, through all the future degrees, provided one maintains a certain principle.

Is the Creator going to help me because of the covenant?

The covenant means that the Creator is helping you. It is Nature, the Creator = Nature. “I the Lord do not change” means that from now on you recognize a certain principle. If you stick to it, you are guaranteed to avoid any mistakes, any deviations, and any sins. The spiritual advancement is always toward a degree that you still do not know. Therefore, you must be certain that when you advance, you will not fail. The covenant is the force that takes you over safely from one degree to the next.

There are two covenants: the covenant of the pieces and the circumcision. The circumcision has become a Jewish conduct in the corporeal world, and it is a commandment to this day. Some even say it is a cruel tradition. What is the spiritual root of the circumcision?

The root lies in the need to be rid of the will to receive that one cannot correct. It is what we do all the time, including with Sarah, Hagar, and so forth. Each time, we scrutinize the will to receive, which, on the one hand, is growing, and on the other hand, we need to “cut out” some of it, similar to the end of the Partzuf (face). We need to decide, “I cannot deal with this part for the time being.” This is also what the positive and negative (“do” and “do not do”) Mitzvot (commandments) speak of. Why “do not do”? Because there is a will to receive that I cannot use.

Therefore, in every situation we must distinguish between the desire we use and the desire we do not use. The place of the scrutiny is called the “Rosh (head) of the Partzuf,” and this is the primary scrutiny that we must always make preceding every decision.

Is the foreskin the desire that we cannot use?

Yes, the foreskin, the exposing, and the drop of blood. These are all the corrections that engage in the intensity of the desire and its nature, with which we cannot currently work in favor of others, nor also in our own favor, since we are in spirituality and we do not use them. The decision to refrain from using them is called “circumcision.”

It is mentioned that Lot is taken captive. Who captured him and what is captivity?

He was taken captive by the egotistical desire of Sodom. Sodom, compared to the state we are in, is a state of great righteousness, and we even dare to say “Sodomite rule.”

Do you mean that we are worse than Sodomite rule?

Yes. Sodomite rule is “let mine be mine and let yours be yours,” I do not touch you, and you do not touch me. Even if I can steal something from you, I won’t. Or even if I can use you, I will avoid it. I do not sell you something bad or manipulate you through advertisement. In short, I do not exploit you.

Sodomite rule does not sound so bad then.

Of course. If we were in Sodomite rule today it would be a step forward for us. It is with good reason that Lot was included in it. After all he is close to Abraham; these qualities are not so far. Abraham came to save him because the quality of Sodom is required in order to elicit anything for correction. This is why when Abraham came to Sodom, he scrutinized the desires that could be salvaged out of them, while the rest, which could not be scrutinized, had to go through the upheaval of Sodom.

The Message of the Portion:

The key message of the portion is truly, “go forth.” We move from state to state only through the changes in our desires. Each moment we examine and scrutinize our desires in order to decide which desires we can use, and which ones we still cannot, which desires we should “kill,” and which ones we should “cut off” from ourselves.

I always scrutinize with what I can advance through love of others, and toward the love of the Creator. “Go forth” is the way that guides me, and it is the only one that I walk.

Read the Original Portion Here »


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