12:8– As our first forefather follows Hashem’s call of Lech Lecha, he travels around the Land of Cana’an, stopping in different cities and, according to Rashi, encircling the land as a declaration of ownership. Avram’s first stop is Elonei Mamrei, and he then travels to Bet El, where he builds another mizbe’ach and there also calls out in the name of Hashem.
(Q) We can understand exactly why Avram builds mizbechot, but he addition of “Vayikra B’shem Hashem” seems a little bit much, especially considering he was completely surrounded by idol worshippers who were hardly sympathetic to monotheism. So, why does our first forefather choose to call out in the name of Hashem?
Ramban builds off of Unkelos, who wrote “v’tzaeli b’shem Hashem, and He prayed in the name of Hashem.” Avram journeyed around the Land and in every new city he came to, He would loudly pray to Hashem and call out His name in public, declaring Hashem’s honor before the Canaanite idol worshippers. Years later, his son Yitzchak would do the same, building a mizbe’ach and calling out in the name of Hashem in Gerar. Only Yaakov doesn’t repeat this pattern, and Ramban explains that this is because our third forefather had so many descendants that it was as if he was always accompanied by a nation, and Hashem’s name and honor did not need to be declared loudly before all of the gentiles they would pass- their mere existence and continuance was enough to project to the Canaanites and, later Egyptians, G-d’s power.
The lesson here is a split one. For those of us who merit to live in the land of our forefathers, after Hashem has decided to redeem us from the exile and fulfill His promises to Avram- our mere existence is already a powerful indication of Hashem’s infinite ability and abundant honor. For those who live elsewhere, especially outside of the bigger Jewish communities in the Diaspora, each and every one has an obligation to follow in Avraham’s footsteps to call out in the name of Hashem. Sometimes this can mean standing in public places and speaking about Him, but more often than not nowadays, actions speak louder than words, and the best modern rendition of Vayikra B’shem Hashem is to do our best to maintain Avraham’s high moral and interpersonal standards, and to be an Or LaGoyim. Only through this can we hope to spread G-d’s good name throughout the earth.