Hashem said to Avraham “lech lecha mei’artzecha mimoladetecha, mibeis avicha,” leave your birthplace. And Avraham leaves the place of his birth, he goes to Eretz Cana’an. No sooner does he get there then there’s a famine, specifically in the land. It was a test, a test to see if Avraham will question Hashem or not. Avraham immediately goes down to Mitzrayim (Egypt), doesn’t question Hashem, doesn’t have any even shadows of a doubt. He goes with true, perfect bitachon (trust). For eternity, one of the great accomplishments of Avraham Avinu (our forefather Abraham) is the fact that he didn’t question G-d. Asarah nisyonos (ten tests), one of the ten great jewels in the crown of Avraham Avinu is that as soon as he got to Eretz Yisrael, as soon as he got to Cana’an and there was a famine, he didn’t question Hashem, he went down to Mitzrayim.
However, the Ramban makes a very interesting observation. Says the Ramban, “cheit gadol chata Avraham Avinu,” a great sin Avraham Avinu sinned. The Ramban says it was beshogeg (unintentional), but the reality is that Avraham Avinu sinned. And he endangered his wife. Says the Ramban, Avraham should have had enough bitachon in Hashem to remain in Eretz Cana’an, knowing full well that Hashem would have fed him. Explains the Ramban, had Avraham really won that test he would have remained there, he would have trusted in Hashem. The fact that he went down to Mitzrayim and endangered Sarah’s life was a lack of trust, and it was a sin on Avraham’s part.
That Ramban is quite difficult to understand, because one of the great accomplishments of Avraham is the fact that he passed that test. Would he question Hashem or would he not? He didn’t question Hashem; he went down to Mitzrayim. That’s one of the great jewels in his crown for eternity. How can the Ramban tell us that he sinned? How could he say there was a flaw? And I believe the answer to that question is that this is one of the greatest accomplishments of Avraham Avinu. He didn’t question Hashem, he didn’t have a fledgling, not even a shadow of a thought of questioning Hashem, nevertheless had he been on a higher level he would have remained in Eretz Yisrael. Because the level he was on was great, and he went down to Egypt without questioning Hashem, and it was a tremendous accomplishment. Had he been even greater though, he would have remained in Eretz Cana’an, he would have trusted in Hashem even more.
Meaning to say, it was a great accomplishment, a tremendous thing, but there was a flaw in it. And I believe what this Ramban is sharing with us is a fundamental yesod (principle). For eternity one of the great moments of Avraham Avinu’s life is when he left Cana’an and went down to Mitzrayim, and yet there was a flaw in that moment. It was a shining diamond, 200 carats, brilliant, yet there was a flaw in it. Had he been on a higher level he would have stayed, he would have been even greater. He wasn’t.
But this is the point. For eternity it remains a great act, a tremendous act, albeit with a flaw, but a great act. This is an ability to recognize that I could accomplish great things and I may have a flaw and I can do a great act and that act itself may have a flaw in it. And it doesn’t negate one the other. The fact that it’s a mitzvah (commandment) and it may have a flaw — the flaw is there; the mitzvah is there. I may have a flaw; I may still have greatness.
The fact that I have a flaw is part of being a human being, and understanding that there are things that I will do wrong is part of the human condition. Avraham Avinu became one of the greatest human beings who ever lived. Albeit every one of the Avos (forefathers) had flaws, that didn’t prevent them from becoming great. It was part of who they were, part of the reality of a great human being.