Zohar, one of the earliest and most important Jewish
mystical texts, was written by Rabbi
Shimon bar Yochai and his disciples. The following is an original
said to Abram, "For your own sake [in Hebrew, 'lech lecha', the name of this
week's Torah portion], go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from
your father's house...."(Gen. 12:1)
The words "lech
lecha" translated literally mean "Go to you".
Elazar said: "lech lecha" means "for your own sake, go away from
here and rectify your soul, advancing your [spiritual] level."
instructed Abram to depart from his present spiritual course by engaging in mitzvot
and good deeds that he would fulfill in the Land of Israel. It is there that he
would succeed in attaining previously unreachable spiritual heights.
is not fitting for you to be here, among these wicked people."
though they did not influence Abram to emulate them, G-d told him that the evil
which surrounded him taints the soul.
[ Zohar I, 77b]
alternative translation of the words lech lecha - "Go to your Self":
interpretation:] "Go...in order to know yourself."
was telling him, "Grasp the root of your soul, so that you can perfect yourself
through revealing the root of your soul down in this world." Elsewhere, the
Zohar explains that every righteous person (tzadik) in This World has two souls;
one soul in This World, and another soul in the higher spiritual worlds above.
These are really different levels of the soul - the main part of the soul remains
above, in the higher worlds and a mere radiance of reflection thereof is clothed
in the physical body in This World.
And thus we find that G-d
calls many tzadiks by their name twice - "Abraham, Abraham", "Jacob,
Jacob", "Moses, Moses", "Shmuel, Shmuel", etc. in order
to draw the soul down from above into the radiance of the soul below. At this
point, Abraham was thus initiated into the journey of revealing the root of his
soul as it is above - below in This World.
[ Zohar I, 78b]
away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house."
Why the repetition?
Was it not sufficient to say, "Go
away from your land?" However, G-d was speaking to Abraham's soul as it was
above, prior to its descent into the body.
"Go away from
your [heavenly] abode, the house of your Father [in Heaven to the physical body
below in this world], and from [the storehouse of souls above, which is called]
Alternatively, this may be interpreted
as referring to the spiritual "body" mentioned elsewhere in the Zohar.
Zohar Chadash, Noach 21b]
The phrase "From your land"
refers the lower level of the Garden of Eden.
father's house" is the upper level of the Garden of Eden.
the land that I will show you" refers to this the lowly and dismal earth.
Zohar Chadash, Acharei 46d]
The Head of the Academy began his
discourse by citing the verse "G-d said to Abram, 'For your own sake, go
away from your land...'", for in this way enlightenment would irradiate him.
is, G-d told him to leave his land and his birthplace etc., for he was unable
to receive enlightenment there.
A person who does not succeed
in one place should pick himself up and go to another place where he may be successful,
just like one waves a glowing log so that it will burst into flame.
sages of the Talmud also state that a change of place brings a change of fortune.
(Rosh HaShana 16b; Bava Metzia 75b)
" Zohar" selected, translated and annotated by Moshe Miller.
by Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars
Miller, a guest teacher at Ascent when he lived in Issrael, was born in South
Africa and received his yeshivah education in Israel and America. He is a prolific
author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of
topics, including a new, authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He
currently lives in Chicago.