We come this week to one of the most challenging and powerful passages of Torah. Genesis 12 begins with these famous words of “lech l’cha” which are usually translated “Go Forth”. Abram is “called” to leave his father’s house, his native land and go to “a land that I will show you”. These two words carry some interesting ideas for us as we age. Abram is 75 years old, according to Torah, when gets this “call”. His father, Terah, has just died. As many of us are or have been care-givers, we can discern from this linkage in the text something that is very real. It is only after the care-giving role has been exhausted that, for some, we are able to “go forth” with the rest of life. Indeed, the death of a loved one, for some, is the tipping point in life, as if they have been given permission to now move forward with their own life.
The Hebrew of these words is also interesting, for we have in the “l’cha” a word that can mean “to yourself”. What could that mean for us? How do we “go to yourself”? I think this is an insight into many of our own challenges. We get to an age when we begin to seek, in serious terms, what the meaning of our tradition is and how it can impact our life and guide us as we move forward into this unknown future. We seek, in other words, a mature spirituality. We do not need, require or want a pediatric religious life. Our issues demand a mature spiritual response. We realize this, I suggest, not from any outside source, but by going into our own soul and asking our own self the questions of meaning. Often, life experience causes this going into our self; such as death or a serious life transition. This inward thrust is difficult and many choose not to do it. Yet, I see many of our generation who slowly begin to think of their relationship with life in different terms. They do go into their own self and begin to seek answers to the new challenges and choices of life.
Like Abram, this is a journey that will rely on faith; faith is our own self and faith in a goal that allows us to see our life in agreater contex than just us. Each of us is open to this “call”, as Abram was, and age is no determining factor. Abram received his “call” at 75, which again reminds us that Judaism is a system that tells us that no matter what age we are in numbers, we are always open to new challenges and the opportunity to go to the next horizon. We just need not fear to go forth.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min
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.