Monday, October 7, 2013

Lech L'cha

Genesis 12:1−17:27

"Be a Blessing"

Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

The parashah begins with God's call to Avram (his name won't be changed to Avraham until later) to "Go forth from your land, from your kindred, from your father's house, to the land that I will let you see. I will make a great nation of you and will give you blessing and will make your name great. Be a blessing!"

What does it mean to be a blessing? Even for us, those who are accustomed to the concept of berakha/blessing have difficulty wrapping our minds around this. How much more difficult must it have been for Avraham, who was raised in a polytheistic, idolatrous and superstitious culture, and who is having his first encounter with the Divine, to understand what he was being commanded to do.

How frightening it must have been for him be told to leave his place of grounding and to travel to a place that he has not yet seen, with only a promise of a great future and the commandment to be a blessing! This is not how I would like to be sent on my great spiritual quest! And yet this is exactly how each of us embarks on the greatest spiritual quest of all. Living.

In many ways each day we are commanded Lekh L'kha, for a male, or Lekhi Lakh, for a female. Each day we are each commanded by the Divine within us to go forth from the place that we have each come to think of as "my land." Every day we are asked to leave the place that we view as "home". Every day we are taking a journey to a place that we will be allowed to see only when we arrive there. The strange thing is that we don't really know we're there even when we arrive, because the goal of our journey is constantly changing.

If this is the challenge we face each and every day of our lives then it is a wonder that any of us embark on the journey. Why don't we all simply stay where we are and live out our lives in blissful ignorance that anything or any place else exists? Perhaps it is God's promise that provides the answer. For we are each promised to be a great nation, to receive divine blessing and for our names to be made great. But what does that mean?

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