Bereshit and Lech L'chah
This week we bridge the gap from what is called pre-history to history. Now the text focuses in on one person and one person's family. We turn to the man who has had more impact on the world than any other. Known only by the name Avraham (Abraham in English translation) he is the man who has had the greatest influence on world history. Without Abraham's insights there would be no Judaism, Christianity, Islam, capitalism or socialism. History, as we know it, begins with Abraham.
This week's parashah (Genesis 12:1-17:27) begins the birth of history with an incredible simplicity of words. The text called Lech L'chah means more or less in English translation "Go forth toward a specific goal that will define your life. " It teaches us that there is nothing more precious than life, and the parashah sets the stage not only for the rest of the Torah, but also for the rest of history.
The term, lech l'chah however is not easy to translate. Literally it means: "Go to/toward/for yourself." In technical grammatical terms, the phrase is the imperative of the verb h.l.ch (to go) plus the dative form of the second person singular. Does this phrase then indicate a good a career move for Abraham or perhaps a spiritual move? Is the text telling us that nothing ever happens in life when we are dependent on others, that in the end, life is all about doing things for oneself? Or is the text teaching us that Abraham would never fulfill his greatness if he stayed in Haran, that in order for Abram to become Abraham he had to first find himself. In that context the expression lech l'chah does not mean "go forth" but rather "go to yourself, find out who you are, learn what you are made of"
The text teaches us that Abram (soon to become Abraham) was 75 years old when G'd stated "Lech l'chah: Go start your life over, leave the familiar, put up with the strange and foreign and pass out of pre-history and enter history." Is the text teaching us that success comes when we leave our comfort zone and seek ways to "re-invent" ourselves continually, and to realize our potential? Abraham became great when he dared to seek himself and understood that he could not flee from life but has to become part of life's ever moving stream called history. Is the text warning us that those who do nothing more than spend a lifetime seeking their mission, never find it, while those who do, those who are interconnected with the universe not only find themselves but become part of life's currents?
Abraham chose to go forward by understanding what he needed to do to become the person he needed to be in life.
Lech l'chah is not about fleeing from a place but rather going to a place, be that place in space or in time. He began his journey by first his turning inward with introspection and reflection. He did not, however, stop there. Avraham then went forth to the Land which God showed him and set the stage for most of world history. How many of us have taken the time to seek ourselves so that we can become part of the chain of life that we call history? How many of us have sought to fulfill G'd's role for us? Do you know your place in history?