The words of L’chi Lach and you shall be a blessing are associated for many of us with the first lady of Reform music our beloved late Debie Friedman Zl. But the truth is that she was not the first to call L’chi Lach, which first appears in Song of Songs (also referred to as Songs of Solomon), where in chapter 2 we find, “Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, Climbing on the mountains, Leaping on the hills! My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he is standing behind our wall, He is looking through the windows, He is peering through the lattice. My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along, L’chi Lach. ‘For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. ‘The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. ‘The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along! L’chi Lach’”.
the first movement of the Debbie Friedman suite named 'Lechi Lach'
The call to Abram to start walking, “Go forth, L’ech Lecha, from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;” is directed to a woman in the book of Song of Songs. A heart is calling her to leave the autumn and winter behind and enjoy the change in the air outside, the world is renewing itself, even though this is a repeat from last year, still a new face of the world appears, new scents, tasty fruits. One only needs to walk to these places and reconnect. It is a kind of a voice that call to us, transcends mountains, hills and valleys. It reaches us and demands, L’ech Lecha, L’echi Lach, so that we open our eyes and senses to everything that is happening around us, and enjoy it.
To encourage Abram to take the journey he does receive some encouragement for the way, “I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” It is an interesting blessing because it accepts reality the way it really is. There are going to be people who will bless Abram but, he must be cognizant to the fact that there will be those who will not like him and his ideas and will curse him. He must be ready for both and more so, he will have to be able to differentiate one from the other as it is not always clear what is a blessing and what is a curse. These days we see that so often in reality shows where a tone-deaf singer is off-key, totally unaware of all of this and absolutely certain that they are going to be the very next thing in the performing arts. Many time there was no one near them to give them the true blessing of truth, rather than feeding an illusion that will never become a reality. Such seeming blessings are many times a curse.
When we ask “L’chi Lach” or “L’ech Lecha” we ought to equip the person we are settnng for the journey with some of the best provisions for the voyage. Encouragement, building self-confidence and pointing out strength are all very important but not the entire picture. It is also important to illuminate areas of difficulty, weaknesses, and deficiencies and suggest ways to overcome or avoid them. And when going on such a voyage that involves leaving one’s land, birth place and home, so that we can get out and tour the land, we must also learn how to courageously open our eyes, see everything that is around us, recognize the opportunities and listen to the voice. A voice that call us, requests us to change things and ourselves too. We must be ready to work with that voice.
A small gem hides in these words, “you shall be a blessing”. Abram in his long voyage leaving behind everything he was accustomed to, will not only be one who receives blessings but also one who knows how to become a blessing to others. Receiving blessings is an easy process, we do not really need to do much or anything to receive them. To be a blessing requires a lot from us. We need to take something from ourselves and bestow it on others. The late Debbie Friedman did that by composing her beautiful music, taking Jewish texts and adding to them a unique Jewish voice. When we listen to this voice, when we hear “L’chi Lach” and “L’ech Lecha” we must take it upon ourselves to be a blessing to others. There are so many ways we can do that, giving the right of way, debating with others respectfully, volunteering, our way of conduct at work, and, yes, by simply opening our eyes to see. To see that “The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. ‘The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.”
Reuven Marko, 27 October 2017, 8 Heshvan, 5778