"The esoteric meaning of the words, 'Get thee out of thy country,'78a is this: the Holy One endowed Abraham with the spirit of wisdom by which he attained to a knowledge of the names and powers of the spiritual chiefs and rulers over the different nations of the world. When, however, he began to study in order to find the locality of the center of the earth, he soon recognized he was not in possession of the knowledge that would enable him to discover the name of the chief that ruled over it. On further pursuing his studies and investigations, he concluded that Palestine was the real center, and, that being so, its chief must be superior to all other celestial powers and potentates. Anxious, therefore, to continue his studies, he at once determined to migrate thither; and therefore it is stated, 'They went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees to go into the land of Canaan.' On arriving in Haran, he set about investigating wherefore Palestine was superior to all other parts of the world, but failed to arrive at any certain and definite conclusion. Entering on a more profound study, by means of mathematical calculations and combinations of the geometrical symbols and signatures of the spiritual rulers of the various nations in the world, and also by his science of the courses and influences of the stars and planetary bodies, Abraham at last acquired an extensive
p. 337 p. 338
knowledge of their grandeur and mystic powers, as also of the hierarchies ruling in the universe. All his knowledge and science, however, was unable to enlighten and instruct him as to the nature and essence of the Supreme Being to whom all creatures owe their existence and upon whose care and providence they depend for their food and sustenance. When the Holy One observed his great yearning and pursuit after divine knowledge, he appeared unto him and said unto him, 'lekh lekha, (get thee out of thy country), or, in order words, study to know thyself and look within thyself and cease investigation on the moral influences pervading other lands;--'from thy kindred,' cease from thy astrological studies on rules for predicting the future by the positions of planets in the different constellations of the zodiac and determining the influence resulting from their conjunctions with one another, over the birth and life of human beings. 'From thy father's778a house,'--change the manner of living under which thou hast been brought up at home,--renouncing astrological science and henceforth placing no faith in it. Observe it was after departing from Ur of the Chaldees and whilst Abraham was dwelling in Haran that the divine command was given him to 'get thee out of thy country,' and therefore the exposition just given of these words is the only feasible explanation that can be given for their position in the text of holy scripture. It is further added, 'and go to a land I will show thee.' By the word 'arekha' (I will shew thee) is implied that Abraham was to cease all his transcendental studies and investigations on the divine nature and essence, which, being beyond the limits of all human intelligence must of necessity remain unrecognizable and an insoluble mystery. 'And I will make of thee a great nation and will bless thee and will make thy nation great and thou shalt be a blessing.' There is here a correspondence between these four blessings and the four commands given to Abraham that may be grouped together, thus: 1. 'Lekh lekha,' (I will make of thee a great nation.) 2. 'Get thee out and I will bless thee.' 3. 'From out of thy country,'--'and make thy name great.' 4. 'And from thy father's house'--'and thou shalt he a blessing.'"
Said Rabbi Simeon: "These four promises correspond to the four feet or pedestals of the heavenly throne and as the blessings signified by them were to be enjoyed by Abraham, it was indicated to him that all nations should draw their spiritual
nourishment and sustenance through him. Therefore it is written, 'I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed'."
Rabbi Eleazar was one day sitting before Rabbi Simeon, his father, along with Rabbi Jehuda, Rabbi Isaac and Rabbi Hezekiah.
"Wherefore," asked Rabbi Eleazar, "is it written, 'And God said to Abraham, 'Get thee out of thy country' instead of 'get ye out?' in the plural, since all the members of his78a-78b family went out with him at the same time? Though Terah was an idolator, God could have given him a like command in case he repented of his idol worship, as we know the Holy One accepts such and regards them with favor. That Terah had renounced his early faith is shown clearly from his going forth with Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, when as yet the Lord had not commanded the Patriarch to do so. Why was, therefore, the order given only to Abraham?"
Said Rabbi Simeon in reply: "If you imagine that it was through renunciation of his former faith Terah left the land of his birth, you are mistaken. It was to escape from his fellow-countrymen who sought to kill him. When they observed the miraculous deliverance of Abraham out of the fiery furnace, they said to Terah, 'Thou has deceived us by thy worship of images.' On hearing this, Terah departed to Haran, where he lived and died. This is, therefore, why the order was given only to Abraham, and so he departed, as it is written, 'According as the Lord had spoken unto him, and Lot went with him,' no reference being made to Terah because he was already deceased. Furthermore, it is written, 'And from the wicked their light is withdrawn and the high arm shall be broken.' (Job XXXVIII. 15.) These words refer to Nimrod, founder of Babel and the men of his generation, from whom Abraham, who was their light, was withdrawn; and so it is not said 'the light,' but 'their light' which was with them was withdrawn and withholder. 'The high arm' signifies Nimrod himself, who held all his fellows and contemporaries under his tyrannical rule. The command of 'Get thee out of thy country' may, therefore, be paraphrased thus, 'Get thee away hence for thine own future safety, that thou and thy family and kinsmen and companions may enjoy the light divine.' Furthermore, it is said, 'That now they see
not the bright light which is in the clouds, but the wind passeth and they are dispersed.' (Job XXXVII. 21.) What the esoteric meaning of these words is, may be illustrated from the great event in Abraham's life, namely, his departure from out of his native land in which as long as he continued to live, but he was unable to attain to the light of the divine or higher life, that from amongst his countrymen had been withdrawn and continued so, until the wind passed and dissipated the clouds that concealed and hid it, and resulted in Terah and his family eventually renouncing idolatry and becoming monotheists. That this was what occurred may be gathered from the form of expression, 'the souls they had gotten in Haran'; that is, who had changed their former78b-79a faith, as also from the words of scripture, referring implicitly to Terah, 'And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good happy old age'." (Gen. XV. 18.)Gen. 15:15
Said Rabbi Eleazar: "We read, 'So Abraham departed as the Lord had spoken unto him.' (Gen. XII. 4.) Observe it is not said 'he went forth (ayatza),' but 'he departed (vayelekh); for he had previous to this forsaken his country and was then dwelling in Haran. It is stated, 'And Lot went with him,' that he might follow Abraham as a guide, but as the future proved, to little or no effect. Happy are they who study assiduously the commandments of the Holy One, that they may walk in his ways and fear him and the day of judgment, when each one will have to give in his account of the deeds and acts of his life, as it is written, 'By what a man writes, shall his deeds be known to all.' (Job XXXVII. 7.) The esoteric meaning of which words is, that at the moment of death, when the soul is about to leave the body, things previously unseen and uncognized become visible. Ere the separation of the soul from the body takes place, three celestial messengers appear who take account of the number of years each one has lived, and of all the deeds he has committed in earth life. After its correctness is acknowledged, it is signed and sealed by his own hand and so, as scripture states, 'By what is written and admitted, he shall be judged in the world to come for his misdeeds, whether committed in youth or old age, whether recent or in days gone by, all will be made known when the account is handed in.' Observe how callous and hardened, wrongdoers become in their nature and character as they pass through earth-life and continue so to
the end of it. Wherefore truly blessed is he who has learned to conform his ways according to the good law and lived in obedience to its dictates and admonitions. How perverse in their ways! how self-conceited and self-opinionated are evil doers; how unmindful and regardless are they of the exemplary lives of good and noble men who spare not themselves to raise and elevate them on to the plane of a higher life and never cease their efforts, notwithstanding the many rebuffs and checks they have to endure, for well they know and realize that upon themselves lies the burdensome task to save and rescue humanity from destruction and ruin. If the wicked therefore perish, it is through their own acts and deeds. They reap what they sow, as did Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, and also Lot, who, whilst associated with Abraham, refrained from mingling with evil-doers. As soon, however, as he dissociated himself from the patriarch and went on his own way, scripture states, 'And Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan' and after visiting and dwelling in various cities, took up his residence amongst the inhabitants of Sodom, of whom it is related, 'the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.' (Gen. XIII. 13.).
Said Rabbi Abba, when Rabbi Eleazar had ceased speaking: "The explanation of the difficulty attending the call of Abraham to leave his native country is quite satisfactory and I agree wholly with the remarks you have made thereon, but how do you explain the words at the end of the verse, 'And Abraham was seventy and four years oldGen. 12:4 reads 'Seventy and five years old' when he departed out of Haran.' Did the divine call come to Abraham whilst sojourning there or whilst living in Ur of the Chaldees?"
Said Rabbi Eleazar in reply: "The words of scripture you have just quoted refer to Abraham's departure from Haran and not from his native land, which took place many years previous to his receiving the divine command. And Abraham took Sara his wife.' Why is the word 'took' (va yecakh), here used instead of 'led (mashakh)?' Because it is intended to convey that it was by persuasion and not by compulsion, he induced Sara to go with him; for under any circumstance it ill becomes a man to force his wife to emigrate to a foreign land without her free consent. As in the case of Moses, who 'took' AaronNum. 20:25
Num. 3:45, and also 'took' the Levites, so with Abraham it is written, 'he took Sara, his wife, and
[paragraph continues] Lot, his brother's son'; that is, seeing the dangers threatening them from the perverse manner of the people among whom they were living, he persuaded them so that they willingly consented to go along with him into the land of Canaan. If it be asked what led Abraham to take Lot along with him? It was because by divine prevision he foresaw that through Lot's descendants King David would be born into the world. It is further related, 'And all the souls that they (Abraham and Sara) had gotten in Haran,' meaning all those whom they had influenced to renounce idolatry and become worshippers of the one and only true God."
Said Rabbi Abba: "If what you say is true, there must then have been a great number of adherents and believers who followed and accompanied Abraham and Sara. Was this the case?"
Said Rabbi Eleazar: "Certainly it was, and all those who went forth with them were called 'the people of the God of Abraham.' It was owing to the great number of them that he was able to pass through the land as stated without any feeling of fear or dread."
Said Rabbi Abba: "If scripture had said 'And the souls they had made (asou) in Haran,'79a-79b your remarks would be quite correct, but the actual words are 'with the souls (ve-eth hanephesh).' I think the meaning intended is, that Abraham acquired and was credited with the merits of those whom he had induced to change their faith when in Haran, for whoever leads erring ones into the path of truth, to him is attributed, and rightly so, the merits of all those whom he has succeeded in converting from the error of their ways; and this was the case with Abraham."