What does G-d tell Abraham? Go. Leave your home, go out “from your land, from your birthplace, from the house of your fathers.” And to where will Abraham be going? “To the land which I will show you.” [Genesis 12:1]
All Abraham knows is that wherever he is going, it’s where G-d wants him to be. For Abraham, that is enough, which is what makes him the first of the forefathers of the Jewish people. His closeness to G-d, his spirituality, is his priority.
Have you heard the expression, “no pain, no gain?” It actually comes from the Chapters of the Fathers, at the end of the 5th chapter: “Ben Hei Hei says: according to the pain is the reward.”
People often use this expression with regards to sports and building muscle. But in that realm, this simple adage can often be terrible advice. It’s possible to strain and cause permanent injury by doing something until it’s painful.
Maimonides reminds us that the Chapters of the Fathers were written by Sages rather than personal trainers. Ben Hei Hei was talking about Torah. The more one tries to understand, the more one delves into learning in order to internalize Torah, the greater the reward.
This is part of what makes Torah unique. The reward is not based upon how much knowledge one acquires, how great one becomes. The reward is based upon how hard you try.
G-d tells Abraham: I need you to leave your comfort zone. I need you to make efforts to come to me. I need you to make changes in your life. And without a second thought, Abraham follows — so much so, that the Torah records Abraham as describing himself as “walking before G-d!” [see Gen. 24:40]
This is what spiritual growth is all about — leaving our comfort zone, to be closer to G-d. And thanks to the strength bestowed upon us by our forebears, G-d knows we are up to the task. We merely need to put one foot in front of the other, to make the effort to go towards Him.