In this week's parsha, parashat Lech Lecha, G-d speaks to Abram, commanding him: “Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” There, G-d says, will be born a great nation. Abram and his wife, Sarai, accompanied by his nephew Lot, journey to the land of Canaan, where Abram builds an altar and continues to spread the message of G-d. According to Rashi, G-d says “Travel for your own benefit and good. There I will make you into a great nation; here [outside of Canaan] you will not have the merit of having children.”
Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks OB"M, writes in his essay, ‘The Birth of Moral Selfhood’: ‘Sometimes we have to give up our past in order to acquire a future. In his first words to Abraham, G-d was already intimating that what seems like a sacrifice is, in the long run, is not so. Abraham was about to say goodbye to the things that mean most to us – land, birthplace, and parental home, the places where we belong.
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה׳ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ:
“And the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you”
He was about to make a journey from the familiar to the unfamiliar, a leap into the unknown. To be able to make that leap involves trust – in Abraham’s case, trust not in visible power but in the voice of the invisible G-d. At the end of it, however, Abraham would discover that he had achieved something he could not have done otherwise. He would give birth to a new nation whose greatness consists precisely in the ability to live by that voice and create something new in the history of mankind. “Go for yourself ” – believe in what you can become.’
The people of Israel, having Eretz Yisrael, the hand of Israel, and being ankle to live there as Jews after suffering through the ages, shows that Abraham’s children were destined to be the people that defied the laws of nature because they refused to define themselves as the products of nature. That is not to say that economic or biological or psychological forces have no part to play in human behavior. They do. But with sufficient determination, discipline and courage we can rise above them. Abraham did. So, at most times, did his children.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks leaves us with this on Lech Lecha: “Lech Lecha in this sense means being prepared to take an often lonely journey: "Go by yourself." To be a child of Abraham is to have the courage to be different, to challenge the idols of the age, whatever the idols and whichever the age…
In ages of radical individualism like today, it means knowing that we are not what we own but what we share; not what we buy but what we give; that there is something higher than appetite and desire - namely the call that comes to us, as it came to Abraham, from outside ourselves, summoning us to make a contribution to the world.”
We all need to do this. What will your contribution to the world be?
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,
Salome, Grade 11