10 November 2016
This week’s parasha, Lech Lecha, begins, “And God said to Abram: Lech lecha, Go forth from your native land and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation.”
The imagery is powerful and intensely personal. Abram (not yet Abraham) sets out from the familiar to the unknown; from the house of his father to a land he has yet to be shown. What possibly possessed him to take such a risk? Commentators discuss the unique phraseology of the Hebrew “lech lecha”, pointing out that not only does the verb connote going “for yourself” but also “to yourself”. In other words, Abram may have followed an inner voice, which guided him away from all that he knew, and that he did it for himself. His journey was inward as well as outward. In leaving the comforts of home, he discovered more about himself and his inner strength, discovering, in fact, who he was. It is the first recorded instance of leaving home to “find oneself.”
Sound familiar? Each major step in our – and our children’s – lives reflects Abram’s experience in this Torah portion. From our first baby steps to walking across the threshold of Kindergarten to moving into the dorm at college, we move away from our parents and toward others, all the while finding out more about ourselves – and, ultimately defining who we are and who we will become.
After a painfully long, contentious and often ugly political campaign, the election is finally over. Yet, our country remains deeply divided. Democracy – a source of enormous pride and in pursuit of a more perfect union – can be imperfect.
As we must commit to support our new president, we must also heal by committing to support those in need, defend those who are vulnerable and reach out to those who are hurt and disenfranchised. This is what our Jewish community – and your Federation – did yesterday, will do today and is committed to doing tomorrow. As did Abraham, we need to “find ourselves” by rediscovering our inner strength as a nation. Let us start with listening, advocating for equality and holding on – passionately – to hope.
Steven A. Rakitt