With the reading of Parashat Lech L’chah we go from what is called “pre-history” to “history”. You will find this week’s parashah in the Book of Genesis 12:1-17:26. It is a long section that deals not only with Abraham’s entrance into the “Land of Israel,” but also insights into the man’s character and personality.
The week’s section begins with a beautiful Hebrew play-on-words: “Lech-lechah” can mean either “Go forth” or “Go toward yourself/Go forward for your own sake”. On a political level, these words form the basis for Abraham’s arrival in the Promised Land. On a psychological and faith basis, perhaps this is G-d’s way of getting us to learn that there are times when we need to leave the past behind and move on with life. In this section, the text reminds us that all of us need to have the courage to leave the familiar, the comfortable, and face a future that is never predictable. In the Book of Exodus, we will see the same willingness to dare to embrace an unknown future when the children of Israel follow Nachshon’s lead and plunge into the Yam Suf (commonly translated as Red Sea but really should be translated as the Sea of Reeds)
Abraham’s journey to the Land of Israel is not only the beginning of Jewish history and peoplehood, but it is also Abraham’s personal journey into maturity. It could not have been easy to be a pioneer. Life was comfortable in Ur and difficult in this new land. Yet just as in the case of Abraham all of us are continual pioneers. Is Abraham’s journey symbolic of each of us? Is the text teaching us that life is filled with opportunities and disappointments, and the mark of an adult is to face these disappointments and move on with life? Our families and friends can assist us only to a certain point, but then each of us must be willing to go forth, to become our own person, to take responsibility for our own lives and to enter our own promised land of adult maturity.
On a national level, Abraham’s journey to Israel gave us our national territory. It is in the land of Israel that we were born as a nation, and matured to create one of the world’s greatest civilizations. On a spiritual level, this is the story belongs to all of us. It is the story or leaving failures and disappointments behind and having the faith to risk, to build and if need be to start again. Abraham teaches us that faith is never passive but active. It is our job, just as it was Abraham’s task, not to sit back, but to go forward, not to call something G-d’s will but to become G-d’s partner in transforming our dreams into reality. Where are you in your personal journey?
Youtubes of the week:
Songs of going to Israel: from the time of Abraham until now
Lech l’chah (Go Forth) in song:
Avraham Avinu sun in Ladino:
A song of Ascent (Aliya: in English):
A song of Aliya in French with English subtitles: