Hashem said to Avram: “Go for yourself (Lech Lecha)…" (Genesis 12:1)
Rabbeinu Bachya points out that two words “Lech Lecha” combine to form the word “Lichluch,” which in Hebrew means “dirt.” That's interesting – but what is the significance?
He answers that a person often finds it difficult to grow spiritually when it requires distancing himself from that which is comfortable and familiar.
At these times, one must bear in mind and remain clear that if Hashem has commanded you to separate yourself from someone or something, then that influence must not be good for you. It is nothing less than spiritual dirt and shmutz that will stain your neshamah (soul)!
This is the message that Hashem was conveying to Avraham – that his land, birthplace, and family influence were a corrosive influence and ran contrary to his future life’s work. As such, he should not feel badly in separating from them, as this was ‘dirt’ that would sully his pristine character.
With the message of Lichluch, Hashem was attempting to give an extra impetus to Avraham to move away and travel to Canaan.
This lesson of negative influences also brings to mind the following Torah insight:
Psalms 18:26-27 says, “With the devout You act devoutly, with the wholehearted man You act wholeheartedly, with the pure You act purely, and with the crooked You act perversely.”
The basic and most simple explanation of these verses is that depending on how a person acts, Hashem responds in kind – Middah K’Neged Middah (measure for measure). However, these verses also mean something more: that being around a person of a given character type influences you to become that way!
Therefore, “with the devout you will be influenced to act devoutly … and with the crooked you will be influenced to act perversely.”