Lech L’cha, which begins in Genesis 12, remains one of the key pivotal portions of Torah. No doubt many of you will study this at Torah study this Shabbat. The portion begins the history of the Hebrews as Avrum is “called” to “go forth” to a land he does not know. There are hosts of commnetaries on this opening section. We at Jewish Sacred Aging® have explored some of the implications of this opening before. It sends us a message that, no matter what our age (after all Avrum was 75!!!), we are never too old to explore new ideas, or to follow a dream.
This week, however, I wanted to take a look at a small section of the portion that often gets overlooked due to the grandeur of the opening lines. In Genesis 17:5 and 17.15 we have a small act that has huge consequences. There is name change. Avrum become Abraham and Sari becomes Sarah. The name change is effected by the addition of a letter, the Hebrew letter “hey”. In Hebrew and Jewish tradition, that “hey” is shorthand for God. Avrum receives his call and Sarai receives a promise, and they change their name by adding God. It got me thinking, how do we add God to who we are? And, if we do, how does it change how we see our self and how others see us?
It is often said that people become more “religious” as they get older. Maybe it is because of the reality of mortality? Maybe it is because we are more aware of time passing and the need to feel that there is something beyond this life? Who knows! Perhaps both, or perhaps our aging allows us to bring forth beliefs that have long been repressed. What we do know is that people often do reach moments in their life that they feel in touch with something beyond their own self. Sometimes these feelings go away. Yet, for many, these moments can be life altering. They impact us and allow us to move forward in life, armed with a new vision and confident that the future will be secure, despite the unknown. Sort of like a replay of Genesis 12. Are each of us “called” to “go forward” into an unknown future? We really are. From the moment we exit the womb, to the moment we breathe our last, that future is really unknown. That is where that “hey” comes in, that element of faith! It is that aspect of faith that supports our going forward and provides a sense of security and confidence…if we but allow it, if we but have the courage to respond.
Rabbi Richard 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.