on Wednesday, 24 October 2012. Posted in Torah Talks
This week we read the Torah portion of Lech L'cha, which includes God's great commandment to Abram, lech l'cha meartzecha umimoladetcha umibeit avicha—leave, go from your country and your homeland and the house of your father, to a land that I will show you. It is the beginning of monotheism, the belief in one God. It is the beginning of Judaism. And it will prove to be the beginning of our connection to the land of Israel as well. It is a dramatic and powerful moment.
The fascinating thing about Lech L'cha is not that God commands Abram—later to be renamed Abraham—to leave everything he has known. After all, if he is to create a new religion and remake belief in our world he will need to leave polytheism and a pagan society that doesn't recognize the concept of supreme justice and divine power, a corrupt, dishonest, and ethically failed civilization.
If you want to live a life of goodness and blessing, sometimes you need to leave home to do it.
So Abraham picked up and left the sophisticated, morally challenged city-states of Babylon. He journeyed outward to find God, and to found a new religion. That journey of differentiation was pivotal to all human history. If Abraham doesn't just do what God commands, there is no Judaism—or Christianity, or Islam, or monotheism, or Western Civilization at all.
But what's most fascinating about Abraham's actions in this week's Torah portion of Lech L'cha is that, after God commanded him to go, he simply went, without argument or controversy. That strikes me as a very un-Jewish approach. After all, the essence of Jewish culture seems to be argument and discussion. If you were directed to leave everything you had ever known and told to move somewhere unspecified, wouldn't you at least complain a little? And don't think for a moment that Abraham is incapable of arguing with God—in fact, he proves in next week's Torah portion that he will argue and bargain with God to the last degree, as he does trying to defend the few righteous people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
No, something else is at work here: the essential understanding that sometimes you just have to move on, leave what you know, and embrace the journey. In order to fully realize who we can become, we must first leave who we have been.
It's an exciting, exhilarating, daunting prospect—dangerous, and yet essential. But if we can choose to take the first steps we may, like Abraham, reap rich rewards.