october 27th 2012
heshvan 11th 5773
Exile Yourself to a Place of Torah!
by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
It is written, “Hashem said to Abram, ‘Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you’ ” (Bereshith 12:1).
Having to leave his land, his birthplace, and his father’s house constituted our father Abraham’s first trial, which he overcame. We need to understand the nature of this trial and its goal. We know that the goal of trials imposed upon the righteous is to elevate them, as in the verse: “You gave to those who fear You a banner le’hitnoses [to be raised high]” (Tehillim 60:6), and le’hitnoses can also mean “to be tried.” Our father Abraham accomplished extraordinary things when he was in Haran, as the Sages say: “Abraham converted the men and Sarah the women” (Bereshith Rabba 84:4; Bamidbar Rabba 14:11). They brought many people under the wings of the Shechinah and taught them to know Hashem. Thus for what goal did G-d interrupt Abraham’s spiritual work in Haran, where he was constantly growing, and command him to go to the land of Canaan? We also need to consider something else: G-d promised Abraham that once he left his land and went into exile, He would make him into a great people, blessing him and increasing his renown. This needs to be understood, for if G-d’s will was to bless Abraham and make his name great, then why did He not create a great people from him in his own land and birthplace, thus fulfilling all the blessings and promises that He made to him in Haran itself? Even without these blessings, G-d could have commanded Abraham to go to the land of Canaan, for Abraham would have certainly done His will without the need for encouragement or enticements!
Let us attempt to explain this as best we can. We know that the Sages have said, “Exile yourself to a place of Torah” (Pirkei Avoth 4:14), meaning that a person who wants to merit the crown of Torah must exile himself to a place of Torah. This is where sages and scholars live, a place where he must study Torah alongside them.
Exiling oneself to a place of Torah has another great benefit, as the Sages say: “Words of Torah only endure with one who kills himself for it” (Shabbat 83b; Berachot 63b). Now we know that exile atones for those deserving of death (see Sanhedrin 37b), for the difficulties and suffering of exile are regarded as a kind of death. Therefore a person who exiles himself to a place of Torah, and who kills himself in order to learn and acquire it, is promised that it will endure in him, meaning that he will acquire it in a firm and permanent way. Furthermore, this exile will constitute an atonement for his sins, for if he unfortunately deserved death, his exile will atone for it. At that point, he will acquire life in the World to Come, for the Torah is a tree of life to those who grab hold of it (Mishlei 3:18), and it spreads an abundance of life upon those who study it (Berachot 32b; Taanith 7a). Also, a person who exiles himself to a place of Torah attributes value and importance to it, something for which the Torah will abundantly repay him, making him great and exalting him above all things (Pirkei Avoth 6:1). His learning will then earn him, starting in this world, great satisfaction as well as tremendous goodness.
One who studies Torah will enjoy its fruits in this world, while the principle will remain for him in the World to Come (Peah 1:1). He will also experience blessings in his spiritual life and in his learning, as it is written: “And zot [this] is the blessing” (Devarim 33:1), meaning that the Torah – which is designated by the term zot (Avodah Zarah 2b) – will be fulfilled in him. Furthermore, the Shechinah, which is also called zot (Zohar 1:93b), will watch over and protect him. How many lofty levels and eternal kindnesses await the person who exiles himself to a place of Torah, and who devotes himself to acquiring it!
According to this explanation, we can fully understand why G-d commanded Abraham to leave everything he had done in Haran, and why the blessing depended on him leaving his land. G-d’s will was for Abraham to exile himself to a place of Torah and reach the levels that it enables a person to reach. He commanded him to go to Eretz Israel, which is a holy place, a place intended for the study of Torah. We know what the Sages have taught concerning Abraham, namely that he had no father or teacher to instruct him about anything. However his two kidneys began to give him wise advice, and they taught him Torah (Bereshith Rabba 61:1; Tanchuma, Vayigash 11). Hence G-d told him to leave his land in order to perfect himself in Torah and mitzvot in a place of Torah, meaning in Eretz Israel.
Although Abraham had already obtained impressive results and accomplished many things in spreading G-d’s word while in Haran, there were still limits to what a man could do while living in his own land and in his father’s home, being attached to his family and circle of friends. Since this did not suit Abraham or his faith, he had to separate himself from his family and circle of friends, and to exile himself to a place of Torah in order to attain perfection in the service of G-d.
On the expression lech lecha, Rashi states: “Go for yourself, for your own benefit and your own good.” In other words: By leaving your land, you will benefit and attain perfect spiritual goodness, both for you and all the people you brought under the wings of the Shechinah by encouraging them to exile themselves to a place of Torah. As such they will make true Torah acquisitions, reaching heights that were impossible to reach in Haran. They will be worthy of a true and complete blessing, which only comes through Torah study and exiling oneself to a place of Torah. Where was he to go? “To the land that arecha [I will show you]” (Bereshith 12:1), the term arecha coming from the root ohr (light). In other words: You must go to a place where the light of Torah will shine forth – “For the Torah will come forth from Zion, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3) – and the air of Eretz Israel makes a person wise (Bava Batra 158b).
According to what we have said – that leaving his land was Abraham’s way of exiling himself to a place of Torah – we may add what Rashi states: “G-d said to Abraham, ‘Go’ – meaning, ‘If you walk in My decrees and observe My mitzvot’ [Vayikra 26:3],” a verse which Rashi explains as: “If you labor in [the study of] Torah.” One who constantly improves his Torah learning and spiritual state will deserve to have everything, as it is written: “I will give rain for your land at the proper time” (Devarim 11:14). Because Abraham would leave for the Holy Land, he would merit to inherit it, he would merit a son, and he would merit a covenant. Furthermore, the Shechinah would dwell upon him in order to transform him into Hashem’s Chariot.
As we previously explained, it was through overcoming trials that Abraham opened the way to his descendants and all the generations after him, making it much easier for us to overcome the difficulties that lie in our path. He also implanted in us the courage and strength to exile ourselves to a place of Torah so as to increase our wisdom, in which case we will obtain the true blessings that are found in the holy Torah.
Guard Your Tongue
Let No Lie Escape Your Lips
What must we say when asked, “What did so-and-so say about me?” If we can respond without actually lying, and our response contains no talebearing, then that is what we must do. We must not let a lie escape our lips. However if we realize that the listener will not accept our response, then it is permitted to actually lie for the sake of peace, although we cannot swear to a lie.
– Chafetz Chaim
The Memory of the Righteous is a Blessing
Rabbi Haim Pinto Hakatan
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 (15 Heshvan, 5773), marked the Hilloula of the tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto Hakatan, may his merit protect us all. He lived his entire life in a state of holiness, completely devoting himself to G-d and His Torah.
Rabbi Haim Pinto was known as a man of G-d. His days were filled with deeds for the community and individuals: Torah classes, communal activities, charity for whoever asked for it or needed it. He was a pillar of Torah and chesed in his generation, and it was not without reason that his prayers were answered and his blessings bore fruit, both during his lifetime and afterwards.
What follows is an incredible story which Mr. Gad Boukilah recounted to our teacher, Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita:
I took a taxi to the Paris airport for a trip to Morocco, and the taxi driver was a Jew from North Africa. During the ride, he spoke to me and asked: “Have you ever heard of the tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto?” I replied, “Absolutely! Who doesn’t know of him? Of course I’ve heard of his greatness and his miracles!” The taxi driver said to me, “Then let me tell you a terrifying story, a miracle that happened to me about 20 years ago by the merit of the tzaddik. One day I returned home after a long day of work. When I entered my house, I felt a massive, unexplained headache. I said to my wife, ‘I can’t eat. I absolutely have to lie down.’ In the middle of the night, I woke up and realized that I couldn’t see anything, even though my eyes were open. I had lost my eyesight – I was truly blind! I woke up my wife shouting, and she immediately called an ambulance to bring me to the hospital. After I arrived, I spent the entire day undergoing specific tests that covered my whole body, but the doctors couldn’t figure out exactly what had happened.”
Two weeks before this frightening event, the taxi driver (who was Moroccan), had been invited to synagogue by his neighbors for the Hilloula of the tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto. Now this taxi driver wasn’t religious, nor did he eat kosher or keep Shabbat. However he willingly agreed to go to the Hilloula. It was the first time in his life that he had ever heard of the tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto, and it was also the first time in his life that he had gone to synagogue.
He was very impressed with the accounts of the miracles he heard, miracles that had occurred by the merit of the tzaddik. He was also amazed by the deep faith of everyone there, people who were dancing and rejoicing in honor of the tzaddik, enthusiastically purchasing candles of the elevation of his soul. That night, as he lay in his hospital bed unable to see what was going on around him, he fell asleep from exhaustion. In his dream, he remembered the Hilloula of the tzaddik, which he had attended two weeks earlier. The images that came to mind brought him spiritual relief, and from it he called out to the tzaddik, asking that he save him from this ordeal and heal his eyes.
His request was fulfilled, for Rabbi Haim revealed himself to the man in his dream. When he recognized him, he asked the tzaddik to heal him, adding that if he recovered, he vowed to go and pray by his grave, and he would also keep Shabbat.
When he awoke the following morning, the man remembered his dream, hoping that the resolution which he had taken upon himself – as well as the great faith that now filled him after having seen the tzaddik in his dream – would infuse him with renewed strength.
In the meantime, the doctors decided to keep him in the hospital for a few days to see how things would progress, at which point his medical team would meet to determine if he needed surgery.
Two days later, in a dream, the man saw Rabbi Haim Pinto once again, and his face possessed tremendous nobility. He had come to encourage him, announcing that he would be healed if he kept his promise to keep Shabbat.
The Tzaddik’s Blessing was Completely Fulfilled
One day later, the man had a terrible headache, after which his eyesight gradually began to return.
Only 20 days had passed from the time he entered the hospital until the time he left. He had entered completely blind, but was now leaving with normal vision, in perfect health, and without having undergone any treatments.
Tremendous joy took hold of him when he was released from the hospital and returned home, both among his family and at his regular job as a taxi driver.
Everything had gone as expected, except for one thing: He didn’t keep the promise which he had made to the tzaddik to keep Shabbat.
About two weeks passed. Then, one Friday night, after he had finished an abundant meal and gone to bed, Rabbi Haim Pinto appeared to him in a dream, his face radiant. With a harsh tone, he said to him: “Know that if you do not keep your promise to keep Shabbat, the illness that you escaped from will return!”
The tzaddik’s warning seized him with terror, giving him no rest, and he woke up his wife to tell her about his dream. Yet in her innocence and concern for her husband’s health, she told him: “Don’t worry. It’s only a dream.”
When he fell back asleep, the tzaddik appeared to him once again and said: “Know that in this dream [the one in which he declared that he would be healed] there was another condition. If that condition is fulfilled, what I am telling you now will also be fulfilled.”
At that point he could not rest. He tossed and turned every which way, promising that as early as Monday, he would purchase a plane ticket for Morocco.
On Tuesday morning he was in Morocco, where he began looking for the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto. On the way, he went into a local restaurant to eat and rest a little. Yet when he noticed that the place wasn’t very clean, he left and looked for somewhere else to eat. At a second restaurant, the owner approached him and asked in perfect French: “What are you doing here?” He replied, “I arrived this morning from France to pray by the grave of the tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto, and now I’m looking for it.”
“Are you really looking for the tzaddik’s grave?” the owner asked in astonishment. “I’ll drive you there myself, since I’m one of the few Jews who still lives here.”
The man could not refuse this generous offer, nor the next offer that was to come from his host: “There’s no hechsher on the food sold here at the restaurant. That’s why I’ll only serve you some tea and cake.”
He eventually made it to the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto, where he dropped to the ground and wept with great emotion for a long time. He then lit candles in honor of the tzaddik who had helped him, and felt as if a heavy stone had been lifted from his shoulders. Once he fulfilled his promise to pray by the grave of the tzaddik, he left with the restaurant owner, who brought him to the bus station. From there he returned to the airport and back to Paris.
From that day until the present time, this taxi driver kept his promise to observe Shabbat and keep kosher. In fact he started observing mitzvot in general, and his wife also started to observe the laws of family purity. He enrolled his children in a Jewish school, and today his daughters study in Torah institutions, while his oldest son studies at the Aix-les-Bain yeshiva. He transformed his entire life so as to observe Torah and mitzvot.
From here we see the power of the tzaddik, who helped heal a Jew so that his entire family could do teshuvah and completely return to Judaism.
He Couldn’t Believe His Eyes!
A similar incident was related to Mr. Yehudah Fehima of Paris. Upon arriving in Paris from Israel, he returned home by taxi. On the way the driver asked him, among other questions, if he had visited the graves of the tzaddikim. He replied, “Yes, I also went to Ashdod to visit the grave of the tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto.”
When the driver heard the name “Pinto,” he jumped up and said: “I want to tell you about a great miracle that happened to me by the merit of Rabbi Haim Pinto.”
He said that at one point he suddenly lost his ability to see, which disrupted his family life. There was no peace in his home, and his wife even wanted to leave him. He also lost his only source of income, since the taxi company that employed him cancelled his license and told him that he could no longer work. Doctors did not understand what had happened, and they said to him: “Perhaps this blindness will leave just as it came,” but it was hopeless.
Several years passed, until finally he passed in front of a synagogue with his blind man’s cane in hand. A Tunisian Jew called out to him and invited him inside for Shacharit. After the prayer service, this Jew approached him and began speaking about the great holiness of Rabbi Haim Pinto. During their conversation, he said to him: “Let me give you some good advice: Light a candle for the elevation of Rabbi Haim Pinto’s soul. Maybe you’ll be saved and regain your vision by his great merit.”
These words, which came from a loving heart, had their desired effect. When he returned home, he lit a candle for the elevation of Rabbi Haim’s soul as he prayed for healing, for his vision to be restored. His wife, who saw what he was doing, ridiculed him. That night, Rabbi Haim Pinto appeared to him in a dream and said, “Because you lit a candle for me, I promise that as early as tomorrow morning, your sight will be restored and you will see like everyone else. Furthermore, you will get your job back, and your taxi license will be restored. All this, however, on condition that you observe Shabbat, put on tefillin, keep kosher and the laws of family purity, and fulfill mitzvot. If you do not fulfill this condition, your blindness will return!”
In the morning, upon waking up, he literally could not believe his eyes! He rubbed them with amazement to discover that his dream had come true: He could now see! He immediately woke up his wife up and said, “I can see!” At first she didn’t believe him, but the reality of the situation proved that he could see perfectly.
Following this great miracle, the man began to fulfill the condition by which his eyesight had been restored: Observing Torah and mitzvot in all their detail. Yet after a few days, a family member ridiculed him because he had become “religious.”
This ridicule had its effect, dampening his enthusiasm. The result was that he began, little by little, to neglect the fundamental principles of Judaism. Thus he lost his resolve to fulfill the condition that he had agreed to in his dream. One night, Rabbi Haim Pinto appeared to him in another dream and said, “Know that Heaven restored your eyesight, but only on condition that you observe Torah and mitzvot. If you believe that this is all just a coincidence, you will become as blind as you were before.”
The taxi driver ended his story by telling Mr. Fehima, “After this second dream, I was no longer lazy when it came to the observance of Torah and mitzvot. Today I’m completely Jewish!”
Mr. Fehima listened very carefully to the entire story, and in an emotional tone he said to the taxi driver: “I’m on my way, at this very moment, to see Rabbi David Pinto, the grandson of Rabbi Haim Pinto.”
“In that case,” said the taxi driver, “I beg you to tell the Rav my story. Tell him that we can truly see the fulfillment of what is written: ‘In their death, the tzaddikim are called alive’ and ‘The tzaddikim are greater in their death than in their life.’ ”
At the Source
The Real Trial
It is written, “Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house” (Bereshith 12:1).
If the Holy One, blessed be He, personally promised Abraham that he had nothing to lose by leaving, whether it be for his benefit or for his good, how could this be considered a trial?
Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz, the author of Hafla’ah, answers this question by noting that further on we read: “So Abram went, as Hashem had spoken to him” (v.4). In other words, Abraham did not leave in order to rejoice in his benefit and his good, but only to fulfill Hashem’s command. It was in this way that Abraham was tried: Once he already knew that this approach carried its own reward, would he leave for the land of Canaan to receive that reward, or would he negate his own personal interests and leave with intentions that were completely non-selfish, meaning only to fulfill the Creator’s command?
It is written, “Hashem said to Abram” (Bereshith 12:1).
The Midrash compares this situation to a person who sees a great city going up in flames, and he is led to ask: “Is it possible that such a great city has no ruler?” The ruler of the city looks at him and says: “I rule this city” – and likewise in the case of Abraham.
The same applies to all the earth-sharking events in the world, times when G-d seems to vanish from the eyes of the individual or community, says the author of Netivot Shalom. People have the impression that everything is in disarray, meaning that the city is burning without anyone in charge. However for those who seek G-d, they can see Him looking through the lattice and saying: “I rule this city.”
It is written, “He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of G-d the Most High’ ” (Bereshith 14:19).
The holy Ohr HaChaim notes what the Midrash says on this verse, namely that Malchizedek was punished because he put Abram’s blessing before Hashem’s blessing:
“This may signify that he adopted the order in which things occurred, namely that Abraham recognized his Creator on his own and put an effort into demonstrating his faith, which is what earned him a blessing. He then blessed G-d, Who had accepted him.
“This is the proper thing to do, and it teaches us that G-d only confers favor upon someone whom He has previously favored. Such is the meaning of ‘Blessed be Abram of G-d the Most High’ – he made himself fitting to serve G-d, the Most High, which is what made G-d his protector. This is only justified because he was blessed first.”
The Entire Burden?
It is written, “He believed in Hashem, and He accounted it to him as righteousness’ ” (Bereshith 15:6).
Just to what point should faith and trust in Hashem go?
The Gemara recounts that the Sages did not understand the meaning of the verse, “Cast upon Hashem your burden, and He will sustain you” (Tehillim 55:23), until Rabba bar bar Hanna said: “One day I was traveling with a certain Arab and was carrying a burden, and he said to me: ‘Lift up your burden and put it on the camels’ ” (Megillah 18a). At that point he understood its meaning.
Rabbi Aharon Yosef Luria, the author of Avodat Pinchas, explains this as follows:
The Sages were uncertain as to what they needed to understand: Was it necessary to rely on G-d – but also to “help Him,” as it were, carry our burden – or could we discharge our entire burden on Him? They finally learned from the story involving the Arab, who told Rabba bar bar Hanna to place his entire burden on his camels. This means that there is no reason to “help” G-d carry our burden, but only to have faith in His lovingkindness.
Theft by Another Name
It is written, “Sarai said to Abram: ‘May my injustice be upon you’ ” (Bereshith 16:5).
Rashi explains that the term chamasi (“my injustice”) comes from chamas (“theft”). Rav Shach Zatzal explains this as follows: Just as stealing money is theft, likewise preventing good from happening is also theft. Sarah was certain that Abraham’s prayers were answered, for “the tzaddik decrees and the Holy One, blessed be He, executes.” She therefore blamed him for her barrenness because he had not prayed for her. “May my injustice be upon you” means that by not praying for Sarah, Abraham prevented her from benefiting from good, and that is called theft.
Real Life Stories
He Believed in Hashem
One day a simple Jewish peasant went to see the tzaddik Rabbi Shalom Rokeach Zatzal, the Rebbe of Belz. He wanted to receive a blessing from the mouth of the tzaddik himself, who was known as a man of G-d, a man filled with holiness and whose blessings did not go unfulfilled.
The eyes of the tzaddik had a compassionate and merciful look, one that “probes heart and mind.” He asked the man, “What about Shabbat? Do you guard its holiness? Or, G-d forbid….” The peasant lowered his eyes, embarrassed. Finally, he was forced to directly acknowledge that, to his great regret, he did not respect Shabbat.
The Rebbe asked him to commit himself to respecting the holiness of Shabbat and to understanding the gravity of this transgression. He cited verses from the Torah and commentaries from our Sages on the subject, and with an energetic voice he asked him to correct his ways in regards to this fundamentally important mitzvah.
These words penetrated the heart of the peasant. “I commit myself, before the Rav, to respect Shabbat from now on and not to transgress it,” he declared with great emotion. Upon hearing these words, the eyes of the tzaddik lit up. Yet almost in the same breath, the peasant added: “But Rebbe, during the harvest, when there’s so much work to do in the fields, I’ll be forced to work even on Shabbat! I hope that the Rebbe will forgive me.”
A bitter smile extended over the Rebbe’s lips. After a brief pause, during which he seemed to be choosing his words with care, the Rebbe said to him:
“First of all, you should know that I don’t ‘own’ Shabbat. Rather, it is G-d Himself Who gives the Torah and mitzvot. I’m not the one who must forgive you, but rather Him. In my humble opinion, there is no chance that He will agree to forgive you for any affront to the sanctity of Shabbat.”
The Rebbe continued: “As for your remark about the harvest, let me tell you a story,” at which point he recounted the following tale:
There was once a baron who organized a great feast for his friends, great landowners from all the surrounding regions. When they had drunk to the point of intoxication, the teaching “when wine goes in, secrets come out” was fulfilled in them, and they each began to praise their “Jew.”
The host began to speak, saying: “My Jew has no equal in terms of integrity and loyalty. I’ve already tested him several times in the past, and each time he reacted impeccably, to the point that I was amazed. I’m certain that he will never disobey me. He will never refuse anything I ask of him.”
“What if,” interrupted one landowner, “you ask him to deny his religion?”
“Yes!” the host replied with absolute certainty. “I’m sure that he would even do that for me.”
The baron immediately had his “Jew” summoned. The poor Jew, hastily and unexpectedly called to this grand reception of debauchery, was embarrassingly placed before the baron and his friends.
“Are you loyal to me?” asked the baron.
“Absolutely,” replied the Jew, surprised by the question.
“Would you do anything I ask of you?” he added, setting a trap for the Jew as his friends watched with amusement.
“With all my heart and soul! I’m prepared to go through fire and water for my master.” Nobody could hope for a greater declaration of loyalty.
The baron looked at him with a piercing gaze and said, “If that’s the case, then I want you to deny your religion!”
Deathly paleness appeared on the Jew’s face, and his entire body began to tremble. Even in his worst nightmare, he never imagined such a request. He tried to say something, but his tongue seemed glued to his palate. The baron looked at him firmly, as if demanding payment for a bill that he had in hand. “Don’t hesitate or go back on your promise to do everything I ask of you. You have one day to deny your religion.”
The poor Jew nodded his head in agreement, and then left the feast completely confused. Loyal to the demands of that scoundrel the baron, and obligated by his word, he would have to deny his religion by the following day. The prestige of the baron, who was entitled to such a loyal Jew, would thus grow in the eyes of his friends.
Some time passed, until one day the baron invited the apostate Jew to his home and said, “Now that you have done what I’ve asked and proven your loyalty to me, without bounds, I allow you to return to your previous faith. I’m certain that despite your inclination to please me, you have great regrets for having taken the extreme step that you did. Return home and tell you family that you are now allowed to practice your Judaism once again.”
Overflowing with joy, the Jew ran home to announce the good news to his wife and children. Confronted by his sudden entry, however, his wife turned fearful: “What happened to you? Have you lost your mind?” she asked in a panic. Her husband then said that the baron had ended his punishment, meaning that they no longer had to deny their religion. They could now return to Judaism! His wife stared at him with a look of distress on her face, immediately conveying that she did not share in his joy.
After a moment, she began to groan bitterly, enough to break his heart. “Oy, Oy!” she sighed. “How could you have done this? How could you have surprised us with this news just a few weeks before Pesach? How will we get the funds needed for the various expenses that are coming up? Where will we find the money to buy matzot, wine, and the utensils for Pesach? Run back to the baron and ask him for an extension until after Pesach!”
At the end of this story, the Rebbe directed his gaze toward the Jewish peasant: “Publicly desecrating Shabbat is equivalent to denying your religion. It seems that you want to be like the foolish wife in this story, trying to be Jewish before and after the harvest, but a goy during the harvest!”
Even this simple, uneducated peasant could understand the Rebbe’s story. After a short internal debate with his desires, he promised the Rebbe that from that point forward, he would respect Shabbat throughout the year.
In the Light of the Parsha
From the Teachings of the Gaon and Tzaddik Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
The Torah Only Endures With One Who Detaches Himself from this World
It is written, “Terah died in Haran, and Hashem said to Abram, ‘Go’ ” (Bereshith 11:32-12:1).
Rashi objects: Why is the death of Terah mentioned first, since Terah was still alive when Abraham went to Egypt?
I would like to explain this by noting that a person cannot merit the Torah unless he is ready to give his life for it. Thus the Sages have said, “Words of Torah are firmly held by one who kills himself for them” (Berachot 63b), for doing so makes him forget everything relating to this world. When his father and mother do not let him study Torah, he must forget them and study all the same. He must do this even though it is difficult for a person to distance himself from his parents. Yet because he kills himself for the sake of Torah, he is promised that it will endure with him. When Abraham saw that his father Terah practiced idolatry, he immediately began to distance himself from him. At that point, it was as if his father Terah was already dead and could no longer do anything to him. Why did he do this? In order to serve G-d, not to bow before the idols that his father made and sold.
Since Abraham left Haran and viewed his father as being already dead, G-d immediately revealed Himself to him and said: “Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house.” Here the Sages explain: “Because Abraham our father said, ‘Is it conceivable that the world is without a guide?’ the Holy One, blessed be He, looked out and said to him, ‘I am the Guide, the Sovereign of the universe’ ” (Bereshith Rabba 39:1).
Hashem did not reveal Himself to Abraham as long as he was living with his father in Haran, next to idols. When he left that place, G-d immediately revealed Himself to him.