Lech L’cha is easily one of the great portions of Torah. No doubt you will encounter many of these themes when you attend your congregation’s Torah study or, if you are not affiliated, zoom in to one of the myriad of commentaries now on-line.
But this year is special for those of us in the U.S. The portion, and Shabbat, comes just a scant few days before the election. Once again, the text anticipates reality. No one has escaped the impact of the pandemic. We have been given the oportunity to have significant amoounts of time to reflect and consider who we are at this stage of life, what this means and what we hope and pray for as we emerge from this challenging time. A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times called these months “the great marination”, as if we have been marinating in isolation. Thus, a classic interpretation of the opening of this portion. In most translations we read “Go forth, from your native land, from the house of your father, to a land that I will show you”. But these first words can also be seen to mean “go to yourself”; as in go inside your own soul.
This portion’s opening is an invitation from tradition to search our souls. The “land” we will go to is no doubt, our future. And as the text says, we do not know what it will be. We all will leave the comfort of “our father’s house”, and search to become independant souls….and this is a lifetime journey. Millions of people in the U.S. are now searching their souls to examine what type of country they wish to live in. Likewise, on an even deeper level, this portion calls on each of us to hold a mirror to our own souls and ask if the life we are living now is the life we wish to continue to live. To change is filled with risks, and the risks are greater as we age. There is security in the known. Yet, the symbolism of Avram in this portion is the reality that nothing ever remains the same, that again, change is in every moment of life and that Judaism is a religious system that gives us the permission, and the opportunity to “go forth”.
So, a message from Genesis. Use this Shabbat to hold that mirror up. Seach your soul and have the courage to ask how you wish to live your life as we emerge from this pandemic. Maybe we are being given a challenge. Maybe we are , in some bizarre and stranage way, being given an opportunity to go insdie our souls and gather strength and courage to transform our own self and thus “go forward” into the next stage of life
Stay safe and Shabbat Shalom
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.