Lech L’cha! One of the great Torah portions. This is a portion that presents us with so many issues and challenges. After 11 chapters of pre-history, we begin the story of Judaism as Avram is “called” to “go forth” to a land that he will be shown. A test of faith from the beginning. All of a sudden, this man, Avram, becomes the foundation of Judaism. He is called. Why? Why him? And he and his people travel to Canaan and then to Egypt due to a famine. Nachmanides, the commentator, presents an argument that this was Avram’s sin as, instead of having faith that God would provide, he left and thus, according to the commentator, we see the period of slavery. But, there’s more! We have a strange war and the beginning of the hostility between Hagar and Sarai over children and the creation of a covenant and the introduction of the ritual of the “bris” and the changing of the names from Avram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah.
With all of this, one of the most famous of the comments on this passage returns us to the beginning. The usual translation of “Lech L’cha” to “Go Forth” is rendered as “go to yourself” (more in line with the Hebrew). So many colleagues have spoken on this issue of going into one’s self. This has particular importance for us as we get older and reach a stage in life when we reflect upon our own life’s journey. After all, so much of what we have lived was not planned. For many of us, all too often,, living life was exactly what Avram was called to do, to go into a future that we could or did not know and have the faith in our self that things would be OK. That sense of faith; in self, in some master plan, in God, whatever or however you describe it, remains today. Perhaps even stronger!
For many we are at a stage when we now must deal with gradual losses, a “new normal” as we heave heard. We may be reluctant to try new things or seek a new adventure or task. This Torah portion, I think, reminds us that our journey continues and that this actually may be the time in life to explore the wishes and dreams that may have been on-hold as we raised a family or were involved with career. There is a wonderful little quote from the book “The Gift of Years” (by Jane Chillister p. 47) that captures this moment in our life: “But if we can bring ourselves to strike out now and try on the rest of ourselves, there is a whole new world ahead of us. Parts of ourselves that have been so carefully hidden from others during all the years of responsibility and productivity–and just as often as not hidden from ourselves as well–are now ours for the trying.”
Let us all not be afraid to “go forth”. 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.