“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” – Pirkei Avot
Avraham is the paradigm of chesed and compassion, of doing for others. For this reason, it is surprising to read Rashi’s commentary on the opening words of parshat Lech Lecha. Rashi, noting the “kefel lashon,” double language, interprets the words “lech lecha” as Go for YOURSELF. Going on this journey to an unspecified destination was for Avraham’s own benefit: “טובתך והנאתך.” By going forth and having faith in Hashem, Avraham will be rewarded with becoming a father, not only of his own children, but also of a great nation. The Zohar, similarly interprets “lech lecha” as “go unto yourself…to know and to fix yourself.” Before Avraham could inspire others he needed to journey inward and strengthen himself.
Rav Kook expresses a similar idea on Modeh Ani. In his commentary on the siddur, Olat Ra’ayah, he explains that each morning when we wake up and are awestruck by the vastness of the infinite universe, we might feel small and insignificant. By emphasizing the I, and drawing on the inner strength and gratitude to God within ourselves, “the individual self remains undaunted, the ‘I’ finds divine confirmation and validation.”
Perhaps the message is that in order to be able to give to others and live a life of meaning, we need to be healthy and strong in mind and body ourselves. Shabbat Shalom