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Parashat Lech-Lecha

November 4, 2022
11 Cheshvan 5783
Genesis 12:1 - 17:27

Dear Friends,

The patriarch Abraham and I have had a difficult relationship over the years. But as I engage with the text of Parshat Lech Lecha once more, my perspective shifts and my compassion for him is realized.

My first encounter with Abraham came when I was in yeshiva, where he was characterized as a hero, a leader, a righteous man. Indeed, he was portrayed as being close to perfection. Even then, I knew there was something wrong with this picture; after all no one is perfect.

As I got older and continued to study the text, I saw a man strengthened by his faith and his relationship with the Divine, but unable to bring that faith to fruition in his dealings with domestic matters. His relationship with Sarah was fraught, as was his relationship with Hagar. He seemed to take no responsibility for domestic issues, telling Sarah to handle her complex relationship with Hagar on her own and refusing to intervene.

In truth, I was so busy looking at his domestic issues that I failed to truly consider the journey that he was on. Abraham is indeed extraordinary. Even though he is not extraordinary as taught by my yeshiva teachers, he stands out in a way that can inspire us wherever we are in our lives.

This week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1 -17:27)has the capacity to inspire us if we stop and look carefully at this imperfect man. At age 75, he is told to “get up and go”, indeed “to leave your land, your birthplace, and your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), and Abraham listens and does just that.

We have no idea if this is the first time he has heard this message or the hundredth, but at an advanced age he makes the leap and leaves everything he has known to begin anew. We are currently living in a world that is changing at a rapid pace before our very eyes. Do we have the kind of courage that Abraham displays to take a risk and not know how everything will turn out? In truth, there are never any guarantees that our actions will produce the results we wish for, but standing still and not acting is not the best option.

We have been given Abraham as an exemplar of one who takes risks and does not always get it right, but does his best to walk a path of righteousness. What more can we ask for in an exemplar -- not perfection, but one who is willing to journey on and do his best. May we have the courage to do the same. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sun, December 10 2023 27 Kislev 5784