Lech Lecha - weekly Torah portion

It is quite fair to say that almost everyone know the famous words “lech lecha” when Abram is told, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you.” In fact it seems that these words were separated from the end of last week’s portion of the Torah but are actually tightly connected to this week’s portion of the Torah. Maybe it is the disjoint reading that causes a less than clear reading of what is really meant here. At the end of the portion of Noah we read, “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there.” Which means that Abram’s father had the intent, the vision of getting to the Promised Land, but for whatever reason he settles in Haran and does not pursue his vision, and eventually dies there.

The words “they went as far as Haran, and settled there.” Show us that there was no sense of urgency in getting to the land of Canaan. They settled where it was comfortable and something quite serious had to happen for them to move on. May be we need to read the words “Lech Lecha” with a different vocalization and punctuation, especially as the Torah lacks both. Maybe we need to read these words as an urging call for action, a sign of impatience, “Go, go from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you.” The doubling of the word “go”, or in Hebrew “לֵךְ, לֵךְ”, is a call to begin the journey without any further hesitation, no further delay. It also comes with a promise, “And 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.” Only then “they set out for the land of Canaan.”

The traditional reading of “Lech Lecha” seems to be lenient upon Abram in this case. He got stuck in place that they have not meant to stay at, it was merely a resting point in a long voyage, not a place to settle in. However we do know of the many times we begin to pursue a dream, trying to reach a particular destination, just to stop somewhere on our way there because we become complacent, comfortable and simply easy to get used to. This can be disastrous. It prevents us from realizing our vision, materializing our true potential, caught by the claws of a comfortable routine. Sometimes we need an awakening call, a cry to push us forward again, to start moving once more in the direction to fulfilling our vision and not to confuse it with the many missions that must be accomplished on our way there.

Abram, once reaching Canaan tours the place but does not stay there. He must leave because “there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.” It is quite appropriate to change a plan and add missions that were unexpected originally – it does not mean that the vision must change too. The mission must be adapted based on the facts on the ground, may they be difficult or different as they may be. It does not mean leaving behind our vision or coming up with a new one. Rather, the chain of missions leading us towards our vision has to be updated or even developed anew.

The Israel Reform Movement has been working according to a strategic plan that has various chapters to it. Its defined mission to accomplish its vision for the State of Israel is “to significantly increase the number of Israelis involved in Reform and pluralistic Jewish experiences, with an emphasis on ongoing and long-term involvement manifested in a commitment to the movement’s ideals and involvement in its communities and projects.” A newly published report about the Non-Orthodox Stream in Israel shows yet once more of the strengthening trend of the Reform and Conservative streams in Israel and becoming meaningful in the number of people who support them. This year the board of the Movement is developing its Strategic Plan 2025. The vision will stay essentially similar, “The State of Israel should act in accordance of the values embodied in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, as a Jewish and democratic state that realizes the moral values of Judaism in the spirit of the Biblical prophets, that cultivates and realizes the diverse Jewish culture and heritage, that serves as a center for the Jewish people, in its worldwide congregations and communities, that defends human rights, that seeks and pursues peace, that promotes religious pluralism, social justice and environmental responsibility, and which is committed to the well-being of all of its citizens, regardless of religion, race, language, gender or sexual orientation.” There are some changes from our previous vision statement reflecting the ten years since the previous vision was drafted. Our mission statement is now under discussion by the IMPJ board and will be addressing the, so to speak, famine challenges of our times. Once articulated it will also be shared and we will walk together towards its implementation. We may be calling out “Lech Lecha” or “Lechi Lach”, but if necessary, also call aloud, “Let us go, go”, “Lech, Lech”, “Lechi, Lechi”.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 19 October 2018, 11 MarChesvan, 5779

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