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Leaving Home

Moshe Miller


The 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 translation


G-d 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".

Rabbi Elazar said: "lech lecha" means "for your own sake, go away from here and rectify your soul, advancing your [spiritual] level."

G-d 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.

"It is not fitting for you to be here, among these wicked people."

Even 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]

An alternative translation of the words lech lecha - "Go to your Self":

[Another interpretation:] "Go...in order to know yourself."

G-d 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]

"Go 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] 'Guf' ['body']."

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.

"From your father's house" is the upper level of the Garden of Eden.

"To 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.

That 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.

The sages of the Talmud also state that a change of place brings a change of fortune. (Rosh HaShana 16b; Bava Metzia 75b)


From " Zohar" selected, translated and annotated by Moshe Miller.
Published by Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars

Rabbi Moshe-Leib 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.


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