Avram and his wife Sarai spent much of their lives spreading the word of Hashem. Despite their efforts, Hashem did not appear to them for many years. Finally, in this week’s Parsha, Hashem speaks to Avram, telling him to leave his home for an unknown land. What was Hashem’s main motivation in giving Avraham this unusual command?
The Midrash states that Hashem’s primary reason was to spread Avram’s fame, ultimately bringing in more people to serve Hashem. Rashi quotes this very practical reason (in his commentary to 12:1), and also quotes another concept. According to the Gemara, Hashem sent Avram to Canaan to start the nation of Bnei Yisrael. This first test of Avraham’s, that of moving to Eretz Canaan, represented the birth of Am Yisrael. Only in Eretz Canaan, says the Gemara, could Avraham have children and start a nation. This is why Hashem told Avraham to go “Lecha,” “for yourself” – it was in Avraham’s own interest to move, because only then would he merit children.
Ultimately, both of these goals were accomplished. Avraham did have children and start a nation in Canaan, and by visiting many places, as the Midrash indicated, he was able to spread the word of Hashem to many more people. Thus, Hashem’s command to Avraham provided for the people of Avraham’s own time and for us in the future. Hashem planned for His word to be spread further in Avraham’s day, while simultaneously setting up the birth of our nation.