“Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.”, is what God says to Abraham. God wants to make a great nation out of his descendants. Along with Sarai and Lot they head for Canaan and there he builds an altar. The cyclic famine forces Abraham to head to Egypt, accompanied by Sarai, faking that she is his sister. His efforts with the Pharaoh become complicated with vagaries of the courtesans and palatial intrigue. They manage to return to Canaan unharmed.Lot ends up settling in Sodom. The city is conquered by an invading army. Lot falls prisoner and Abraham puts together an armed group to rescue him. After his victory he is blessed by the King of Salem, Malchizedek. A pact is made between God and Abraham: the land between the Nile and Euphrates will be inherited by his descendants.
Ismael is born to Abraham and his servant Hagar, who will become patriarch of a different nation. But God promises Abraham that Sarai will have a son (Isaac), from whose progeny will come the chosen nation with whom God will make a concrete Pact. As a sign of this Pact (“between me and you”) Abraham circumcises himself and his male descendants.
There are several important points presented in this parashah: the order to leave his own land, Melchizedek´s blessing, the land inheritance, the Jewish nation´s genealogy, the circumcision pact, among many others. We cannot comment on all of them here and now.
The first of all these “Lech lecha meaartzeja” (“Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you”), appears in the text of a dialogue. The dialogue is very important. We know that because when God dialogs with man, it is for good reason. As God speaks, Abraham listens attentively and in silence. He doesn´t make anyone wait for the answer: he has understood. What did he understand? What do we understand? What have I understood?
That I should leave, that I abandon my name, my identity, my inheritance, my property, my nation, my old ideas, everything that surrounds me… That it changes and that it transforms me. In today´s language: give it all up already, your “me”, your ego, your habits, routines, your artificial world and come to Me. This is telling me to escape from my selfish existence and that I go on to a new life and new lands. That I abandon my perspective of the world and that I discover the freedom to perceive things from a different perspective.
There are those who are incapable of paying attention and listening in silence to this offer, advice, pleading or mandate. Abraham, on the other hand, weighs that meaning of these words “Lej leja meaartzeja”. Make a decision. He is able to take his own will into consideration, as well as his desires, his fears and refusals, but he can also give it an unexpected spin to the situation: step out of himself, of his ego, return to God. See the world from God´s perspective.
Two roads exist. God relates to us, He dialogs with us and He communicates his point of view. But the thins is that those words, “Lej leja meaartzeja”, were not a past sporadic pronouncement. They continue to be pronounced now, they are eternal. Every one of us is listening- in silence or not- at this very moment. Now it is our turn to answer, we have to say something.
What will we say?
Shabbat Shalom ~~~~~~~~ Rafa
Read the October 2015 newsletter from the European Union for Progressive Judaism.
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Read Torah from Around the World #295: Parashat Lech L’cha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)
A Journey of a Lifetime
By: Rabbi Joan Glazer Farber, Co-director of Hevreh: A Community of Adult Jewish Learners.
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