Hashem’s instruction to Avraham Avinu “Lech Lecho” is a leaving (from “your land, your birth place, your father’s house”) for the sake of arriving: arriving to “the land I will show you”, Eretz Yisroel.
According to Chassidus, each of these expressions of leaving has a spiritual counterpart in the avodah of a Jew:
- Your land (artzecha) refers to one’s will (ratzon), that one has to leave his concepts of “I want”;
- Your birth place refers to the traits one was born with, to leave the concept of “that’s the way I am”;
- Your father’s house refers to the education and training that one has become accustomed to.
First one must completely leave these three limiting self-conceptions (even if they are in the realm of Holiness), and having left them he can now proceed towards “the land I will show you”, the Land of Israel. Back in parshas Pinchas the Rebbe explained that a Jew must “make here Eretz Yisroel”, make it “a place where G‑dliness, holiness, and Yiddishkeit are openly revealed”, and further: to conduct ourselves in the spirit of the Geulah. Here the Rebbe says that we are far beyond the beginning of the process of conquering the land outside of Israel and making it Eretz Yisroel, and thus the instruction to “go out from your land” in our case refers also to the land that has already been made into Eretz Yisrael. To not only “go out” from negative things, but to “go out” from the current, limited level we have obtained even in holy things.
This includes not only the land of the 7 nations, which correspond to the 7 midos (the 7 emotional attributes of chesed, gevurah, etc.), but the land of all 10 nations that was promised to Avraham, including the 3 nations of Keni, Kenizi and Kadmoni, which correspond to the 3 moichin (the 3 intellectual attributes of the soul: Kesser, Chochma, and Bina). And the acquisition of this land will take place peacefully, without the war that was required to conquer the 7 lands, meaning the 7 midos.
This process of “Lech Lecho” — leaving what one is accustomed to, even good and holy things — takes place by revealing powers that one did not even know he had. This includes adding in learning Torah and making chiddushim (novel insights), gathering people on Shabbos to teach them Torah. This process of “Lech Lecho” is the preparation needed to reach the “Torah of Moshiach”, which is connected with the acquisition of the 3 lands, the 3 moichin, which is the “sha’ar haNun“, the 50th gate which Moshe Rabbeinu was only able to reach at the end of his life. And through this we will reach the complete revelation of the Torah that was given at Har Sinai: the level of “a new Torah will go forth from Me” (Vayikra Rabba 13:3 on Yeshayahu 51:4).
We can observe that during the decades of the Rebbe’s leadership, the Rebbe numerous times demanded a new “lech lecho” from the Chassidim*:
- In the “Yud’s” (the 1950s) the Rebbe demanded that Chassidim go out from what are called worldly assumptions (“hanachos ha’olam”), to leave the “balabatish” behavior and attitudes that were common at the time, even among Chassidim (the Rebbe in those years would make fun of those who were concerned that their tie was straight and that the color matched their shoes);
- In the “Chof’s” (the 1960s) the Rebbe began pushing for Chassidim in general to go out from the confines of the Chassidic community to go on Shlichus (“Ufaratzta“);
- In the “Lameds” (the 1970s) the Rebbe pushed Chassidim to become “activists” both locally (in Crown Heights) and internationally (influencing the Israeli government regarding “Who is a Jew“);
- In the “Mem’s” (the 1980s) the Rebbe launched into a greater emphasis on Moshiach — “We Want Moshiach Now” — and introduced the spreading of the 7 Noachide Laws to Gentiles.
Each of these steps demanded that the Chassidim “go out” from the things they had become accustomed to, time after time another “lech lecho”. We can observe that in the “Nun’s” (the 1990s) the Rebbe ratcheted up the push for Moshiach and introduced identifying and publicizing Moshiach, and the need to accept Moshiach’s Kingship (as mentioned in Parshas Noach, among other places). This also demanded (and still demands) a “lech lecho” from Chassidim who had become accustomed to the previous standards that the Rebbe established.
Here in our sicha, the Rebbe reminds us that in order to bring the revelation of Moshiach and the true and complete Geuloh we cannot stand still (even if we are standing in the best of places) — we must “go out” to the land where the Rebbe is guiding us, exemplified by the Rebbe’s enthusiastic encouragement of the singing of “Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu, Melech Hamoshiach l’Olom Vo’ed!” Pack the bags and Lech Lecho!
*) Here we are speaking about the Rebbe’s demands of Chassidim, but it also recalls the following episode about the Rebbe himself as told by the Rebbe’s secretary Leibel Groner’ ע”ה:
When R’ Moshe Leib Rodstein, my wife’s uncle, lived in Poland before World War II, he served as the secretary of the Rebbe Rayatz. His job was to type the letters the Rebbe wrote and to send them to the addressees. After the war, when he arrived in the United States, he continued working for the Rebbe Rayatz. After the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe asked him to stay on in his job, which he did until he passed away.
R’ Moshe Leib once told me, “It is hard to understand. When an apprentice trains under an electrician, carpenter or the like, after a while he learns the trade and opens his own business. I thought that after working for the Rebbeim for many years that I’d learn the profession of Admurus and would be able to open my own Admurus and be a Rebbe.”
I asked him why this hadn’t happened. He said, “I saw a new Rebbe every day! The Rebbe of today is not the Rebbe of yesterday.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Every day, I saw new giluyim and new conduct on the part of the Rebbe. Each day, there were things I had never seen before. So I could never learn the trade and I did not become a Rebbe.”