At the beginning of parshat Lech-Lecha, God tells Avraham, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Bereshit 12:1). Interestingly, God never reveals the exact destination to Avraham. Instead, Avraham and his entire household must move by faith and nothing more – a daunting task to say the least. One could say that Avraham did have GPS, except for him, it meant, “God is Promising Something.” What that was precisely, he did not know. And so, understanding the vagueness of His command, God reassures Avraham that his faith will be rewarded, saying, “And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing” (Ibid., 12:2). What is the exact meaning of this promise? How is this any kind of reassurance?
According to Rashi, based on the Gemara in Pesachim, these words allude to the blessing we recite during the Amidah at least three times a day, every day: “Blessed are You, Lord our God and the God of our ancestors, God of Avraham, God Yitzchak, and God of Yaakov…Blessed are You, Lord, Shield of Avraham.” Says Rashi, “I will make of you a great nation,” refers to “God of Avraham.” “I will bless you” refers to “God of Yitzchak,” and “I will make your name great,” refers to “God of Yaakov.” And Rashi continues, “One might think that we should conclude the blessing (in the Amidah) in which these invocations are recited by mentioning again the names of all the Patriarchs. Therefore, the Scripture says, ‘You will be a blessing,’ meaning with you (i.e. with your name only, Avraham) shall they conclude the blessing, and not with them, (the other names of the Patriarchs).” How is this a reward for Avraham’s faith? After all, Avraham was an extremely humble man. In fact, he did not want recognition or credit for any of his achievements or contributions. Avraham, more than anyone, understood that all he was, everything he possessed and all that he merited was due to God’s kindness and compassion, as it says, “I am but dust and ash” (Ibid., 18:27).
To help us understand the deeper meaning of Avraham’s reward, we should turn to the words of the Baal Shem Tov, who explains that because Avraham showed such great faith in God, the essence of Avraham’s faith would be implanted in the soul of every Jew to come. No matter how distant a Jew may become from his or her Judaism, no matter how removed a Jew may feel from God, Torah, tradition or observance, no matter how low a Jew may sink, that spark of Avraham’s faith will remain in their hearts and souls as an eternal, inextinguishable, glowing ember of hope for return. Thus, God tells Avraham, “Fear not Avraham, I am a shield to you” (Ibid., 15:1). That is to say, “I, God, will be that shield within your soul and within the souls of all of your descendants which preserves their purity, and keeps them connected no matter how far they stray.” As the Gemara says, “Even when the Jewish people sin, they still [have the sanctity] of the being called ‘Israel’” (B. Talmud, Sanhedrin 44a).
Our ability to maintain a constant connection with God and to access our own inherent goodness, holiness and purity comes from Avraham. This is why we conclude the blessing in the Amidah with Avraham’s name and on one else’s – because it is in Avraham’s merit that every Jew has an everlasting spark of kedusha which can never go out, and it is in Avraham’s merit that every Jew has the limitless potential to reach the highest heights of spirituality, righteousness and morality.
Indeed, it is the faith of Avraham which has sustained and continues to sustain every Jew. It is the faith of Avraham, a faith forged by the words, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” which shines brightly in the soul of every Jew no matter the dross that covers it. It is the faith of Avraham which compels us to continue to seek spirituality, meaning and morality is a dark world, and it is this faith which inspires us all to remember our own inherent value to God. This Shabbat, may we all reflect upon the incredibly precious gift given to us by our father Avraham’s faith, and may cherish it as our key to unlock the undisclosed destinations of life’s meaning, so that we, like Avraham, can serve as a blessing for our families, our community, the Jewish people, and for all humanity.