This is one of our most powerful portions. It is a portion of transition and prophecy. It contains many themes, from the “wife-sister” motif to the rite of circumcision, from the first covenant to the prophecy of slavery and redemption. We see Sarai’s infertility and the Hagar-Ishmael saga begin to unfold. And, to make sure that we see how relevant the Torah is, check out Genesis 14:11-20. It is the end of the story of the War of the Kings when Lot is taken captive and Avram mounts a rescue mission. Right out of the headlines?
Our portion begins with the famous “call” of God to Avram to lech l’cha: to go forth from his native land. There are numerous renderings of this “call”. But first, ask the question, why Avram? He is portrayed in the end of the previous portion as a son of Terah. He is not “righteous in his generation” as was Noah. Indeed, there is no definition of why Avram is called. Think about that for a moment. What can that mean for each of us?
Maybe, the Torah is teaching us that the “call” from the eternal is always available to anyone. No special training or position in life is needed. Maybe all that is needed is the willingness to answer! In answering, a person is literally moved from one sense of identity to another, from the comfort of what is, to the possibility of what can be. I don’t think we pay enough attention to the fact that, in a sense, Avram is “everyone”; a symbol of the each of us.
Can this portion speak to us at our age? I mean, other than Avram fathering Ishmael in his 90s! Perhaps this portion’s “call” to us is a call to be more self-aware of who we are, what we really wish for ourselves, and where we wish to be: what “land” we wish to go forth to? Judaism teaches us that growth is not the province of any one age, but is always open to us, if we choose to see it. Being aware of our own needs, wants, wishes and goals allows us, in many ways, to lech l’cha. “Many of the tools we need in order to age well and become the best people we can be may be summed up in one word: awareness. When we expand our awareness, we can identify our problem areas, think about solutions, and go for our objectives…Awareness is a unique life-processing activity without which we would live a poorer life, or no life at all. All of us are aware to some degree, yet we all have the potential to grow in awareness.” (“The Wisdom of Morrie”. Morrie Schwartz. ED by Rob Schwartz. P. 84,85)
Each of is being “called” to become more aware of our own authentic self so we may have the courage to go forth in our own unique tomorrow.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.