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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Own It

By Rabbi Sender Haber

This year I noticed something interesting at the end of Parshas Noach. Terach took his wife and children and set out on a trip from their homeland of Ur Kasdim toward the land of Canaan. They stopped in Charan where they settled.

In this context it is a little bit difficult to understand the great test that Avraham was given to leave his birthplace, his family, and his land. According to the Ibn Ezra, Avram may have received these instructions when he was still in Ur Kasdim. Why was it such a big deal to go to Canaaan when he was practically on his way there anyway?

There is a famous Kabbalist who had a relative that was not religious and was sadly addicted to some very dangerous substances. The Kabbalist, who is a great Talmid Chacham asked my father to learn with him. At one point they made a ‘Tikkun’ for the man’s Neshama and it worked. The relative treated his addiction and became religious.

Many years later, the relative regressed into his old habits. He moved out of Israel and basically disappeared off the face of the earth. My father asked the Kabbalist, “Did the Tikkun have a time limit?!”

The surprising answer was that, yes, there was a time limit. All a Tikkun can do is jumpstart somebody’s neshama. It can give them a surge of holiness that can change their lives. But, like a car, they are not truly charged until their engine starts running on its’ own.

Avraham had already left his nation and his birthplace. He was already on his way to Eretz Yisroel, but it was just a family trip – an ethnic migration. Hashem said to Avraham “Lech Lecha!” Go for yourself! Make it our own. Own it. Make it a part of you, not just a part of where you’ve been shlepped.

The Medrash at the end of Noach tells the story of Haran. He was watching when Avraham stuck up for G-d and was thrown into the fiery furnace. He decided that if Avraham survived, then he too would jump into the furnace. He did, but did not survive. The Torah wasn’t his - it was just something that he was doing because it seemed to work for Avraham. It’s like telling a joke that you don’t get, because somebody laughed last time.

Haran’s son Lot had the same problem. He was Avraham’s closest companion, but he just didn’t get it. He allowed his flocks to graze in private fields and made a bad name for Avraham. Eventually he settled in Sedom. Lot also left his homeland to follow the commandments of Hashem, but he didn’t ‘own it’, he was just tagging along.

For Avraham it was Lech Lecha; for Lot it was ‘Vayelech Ito Lot’.

The lesson from Avraham and Lech Lecha is that we need to do the right thing, but we need to also do it for the right reasons. We need to put thought and intent into every action that we do.

We need to Own It.

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