Parshat Lech Lecha begins with Hashem telling Avraham to leave his dwelling place, the place where he was born and raised, to travel to an unknown land. There, Hashem says, he will make Avraham into a large nation, make him famous, and bless him.
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (5:4) states that Avraham was tested ten times and passed every test. Many Mefarshim say that this commandment to leave his abode constitutes one of the ten tests. However, Rashi comments that the Torah’s superfluous use of the word “Lecha,” “[you shall go] for yourself” (12:1), indicates that Avraham’s journey will be beneficial. If this journey was really for Avraham’s benefit, how could it be a test for him? Was there any question as to whether he would choose the obvious road of personal gain?
The Ma’ayanah Shel Torah quotes a novel interpretation, offering that the actual test for Avraham was his motivation; would he leave his home for the money, fame, and nationhood, or simply because Hashem commanded him to do so? In the next Pasuk (12:2), the Torah hints that he succeeds, since it says that Avraham went “Ka’asher Dibeir Eilav Hashem,” “as Hashem spoke to him,” and not for any ulterior motives. This could also explain what Rav Saadya Gaon meant when he said that the “Vayomer Hashem” preceding “Lech Lecha” means “because Hashem said.” He would render the Pesukim (12:1-4) as, “Because Hashem said to Avram, ‘Go for yourself…’ Avram went, as Hashem spoke to him,” implying that Avraham went not for the wealth, but due to his commitment to Hashem.