The addition of the letter Hei into Avraham’s name occurs at the end of this week’s Torah portion, but to understand it, we need to look at how the portion begins. God tells Avram lech lecha, “Go to/into/for yourself away from your land, your family and your father’s house, to a place that I will show you.” These first words to Avram define their relationship and are the essence of the entire portion. We are commanded to go into ourselves, away from what we know, to a place of God’s choosing. Be still. Meditate. Listen. Receive.
Sefer Bahir teaches that God added the Hei so that “all parts of Man’s body should be worthy of life in the World to Come” (Bahir 8). This is based on the Talmudic teaching that Avram was first given mastery over 243 limbs (the numerical value of Avram), but with the Hei, he mastered all 248, the additional ones being two eyes, two ears, and his sexuality (Nedarim 32b). These five are the ones which most easily distract us, and make it difficult to focus on spirituality.
With God’s covenant of placing the Hei in Avraham’s name and Avraham’s commitment of circumcision, Avraham removes himself from the distractions of what he sees, hears and is attracted to. Instead he deepens his spirituality, masters his appetites and becomes worthy of a true life. Like Abraham, may we all be blessed to have God’s name present in every word, action and experience of our lives.