Last week it was “Take yourself (lech l’cha) from your country, your birthplace, and your father’s house, to the land which I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).
This week it is “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac; take yourself (lech l’cha) to the land of Moriah and offer him there on one of the mountains which I will tell you” (Gen. 22:2).
There are three features to note – the gradual build-up of the message; the lech l’cha; and the “which I will show (or tell) you”.
1. In regard to the first, God could have given the patriarch a short, staccato command, but He spoke to him gently, letting the message register in stages so that his mind registered the Divine will and he had no excuse for ever saying, “You sprung it upon me and I didn’t have time to think!”
2. The phrase lech l’cha is a regular grammatical phenomenon in Biblical Hebrew, but the rabbis said that the l’cha – “for yourself” indicated that the mission with which God charged Abraham was for the patriarch’s benefit.
Leaving home was bound to be hard, but in a new place Abraham would become a great nation.
Bringing his son to the sacrificial altar was even harder, but it tested Abraham’s faith and enabled him to become the founder of the Jewish destiny. (The text hints that Isaac would survive to be the progenitor of a new generation, but that is a problem for a different discussion.)
3. Not only did Abraham not choose his mission: he did not even know his destination.
Metaphorically, he put his hand into that of the Almighty, and said, “Lord, I trust You to lead me to a goal that is right for me”.