Lech Lecha: What gave Avraham a great name?
What gave Avraham a great name?
At the commencement of Parshat Lech Lecha, Hashem commands Avraham and Sara to make aliyah, a pilgrimage, to the land that He would show them, the land of Canaan. Hashem promises (Bereishit 12:2),
“V’eescha legoy gadol,” – “I will make you into a great nation,”
“Va’avarechecha,” – “and I will bless you,”
“Ve’agadela shemecha,” – “and I will make your name great.”
The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim, 117B, brought down by Rashi, explains that the commencement of our Amida, our central prayer when we stand before God three times a day, is based on this text.
The Torah tells us that Hashem said to Avraham, “Ve’eshcha legoy gadol,” – “I will make you into a great nation.” That’s why we proclaim, “Elokei Avraham,” – God is the God of Abraham.
Hashem continued, “Ve’avarechecha,” – “and I will bless you.” That’s why we say, “Elokei Yitzchak,” – the God of Isaac.
Finally came the third statement, “Ve’agadela shemecha,” – “and I will make your name great.” That’s why we say “Elokei Yaakov,” – the God of Jacob.
Now Rav Soloveitchik asks a great question.
We can understand the connection between the second statement, ‘I will bless you,’ and ‘Elokei Yitzchak.’ Avraham was blessed through Yitzchak, because Hashem blessed Avraham miraculously with a child (Yitzchak) when he was old. However, what is the connection between the third statement and ‘Elokei Yaakov’ – that is, in what way did Avraham’s ‘name become great’ through Yaakov?
Rav Soloveikchik explains beautifully. He says that when it comes to parenting, it’s a marvellous achievement to see one’s child walking in one’s footsteps. But it’s an even greater achievement to witness one’s grandchildren emulating one’s ways. That is exactly what Avraham achieved through Yaakov having internalised the values of his grandfather and who in his own right became a great person. Therefore we see that Avraham’s name became great through his grandchild.
A very important lesson emerges for us from this. Famous and renowned people can make national and global impacts but ultimately the most significant impact that anybody can make is within their own families.