Lech-Lecha - Weekly Torah Portion
Most of us would surely recognize the opening sentence of this week’s reading from the Torah. “Now the Lord said to Abram, Go from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you into a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing”. These words from the 12th chapter of Genesis teaches us a lot about the man named Abram, who will become Abraham, the father of the nation. Not that we learn great things about the man, rather we find out some troubling information about him instead.
The words “Lech Lecha”, are just the beginning of a cry for motion. He in fact was already on his way when these words were said, however, he got stuck somewhere on the way and these words were words of encouragement to make him move on. He was comfortable where he was and saw no reason to move on. On the other hand, when things get tough, then Abram moves swiftly, as we read later in the chapter. Then, “Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a time, because the famine was severe in the land.” He leaves but does not plan it through to well. Only “when he was approaching Egypt” he comprehends that there is some danger here and tell his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well for me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.” When he says that his life is going to be spared on account of her he also attempts to shift responsibility for a plan she did not make and blame her that because of her beauty he may be losing his life.
There is something refreshing about the Bible being able to describe such important characters as regular human beings rather than perfect, god-like creatures. They are described with both their strengths and weaknesses. This makes it possible for us to relate with what they are experiencing and possibly allow us to check ourselves and see if we have learned something out of it all. Eventually it is the Pharaoh who teaches Abram the lesson. He scolded him, “What is this that you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for myself as a wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go!” The chapter begins with Lech – Go – and ends with Lech – Go, this time around take and go.
The prophet Isiah in the Haftarah read this week also refers to the issue of motion, “He gives strength to the weary, / And to the one who lacks might He increases power. / Though youths grow weary and tired, / And vigorous young men stumble badly, / Yet those who wait for the Lord / Will gain new strength; / They will mount up with wings like eagles, / They will run and not get tired, / They will walk and not become weary.” So, this week we are dealing with different perspectives of motion. A call for motion when we get stuck and should be moving elsewhere. A major existential threat that requires moving to another location. And the need to go due to making a blunder that involves someone else putting him in danger because of an inability to stand firm against adversity. Isiah comes and promises, “They will walk and not become weary.”
These times are certainly challenging. We need to hear the call – Lechi Lach – Lech Lecha – GO! In such demanding times it is unhealthy to be stuck in the wrong place. The poet and composer Shmulik Kraus wrote the poem “It Happens” and taking the liberty to translate it the words are, “It happens / That the path continues / It Happens / Just walk, walk / Nothing is known / Not a year not a week / Just move, move / Think that you could / Repeat it once more / But man / It happens.” There are many unknowns in life, challenges that seem unsurmountable or unsolvable. Nevertheless, it is essential to continue striving ahead, finding the way, a path, a passage, narrow as it may be, remembering Rabbi Nachman of Breslev words, “The entire world / is a narrow bridge / And the principle, the principle / No to fear, not to fear at all.”
One these very coronavirus days, that is maybe decaying somewhat here in Israel over the last few days, but will still be with us for quite a while, during days where harsh words are spoken against the foundations of justice, law and order, we must keep on going, moving forward. It must be with direction and purpose, with a conviction that we can make meaningful change. Difficult times are no new to us, the twists and turns of the way are challenges which we shall conquer. We heard “Leach Lecha” from where we came. On our way we listen to the words “They will mount up with wings like eagles, / They will run and not get tired, / They will walk and not become weary.” We shall do that in the way the prophet predicts, “Each one helps his neighbor / And says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’ / So the craftsman encourages the smelter, / And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil, Saying of the soldering, ‘It is good’; / And he fastens it with nails, / So that it will not totter.”
Shabbat Shalom and Good Health.
Reuven Marko, 30 October 2020, 13 Cheshvan, 5781