Michelle Khandadash on Parshat Lech Lecha:
I’m going to start with a synopsis of this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha.
Hashem commands Avraham to leave his home and travel to Eretz Yisrael. The Almighty then gives Avraham an eternal message to the Jewish people and to the nations of the world: "I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse." Because of a famine, Avraham was forced to travel to Egypt. Avraham asked Sarah to disguise herself as his sister, for she was very beautiful and local men would kill Avraham to marry her.
Pharaoh evicts Avraham from Egypt after attempting to take Sarah for his wife. They settle in Hebron, and his nephew Lot settles in Sodom. Avraham rescues Lot, who was taken captive in the Battle of the Four Kings against the Five Kings.
Entering into a covenant with Hashem, Avraham is told that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years, and that his descendants will be given the land "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." (I do not think that this part of the story made it into the Koran...)
Sarah, childless, gives her handmaiden, Hagar, to Avraham for a wife, so that he can have children. Ishmael is born. The covenant of brit mila is made! Then Hashem breaks the exciting news that Sarah, at the fabulous age of 100, will give birth to Yitzchak. To finish it all off, Avraham then circumcises all the males of his household.
Well, that’s action-packed. So many things happen! But one thing in particular makes me enjoy this parsha. You see, everyone in the Torah is human, like me and like you, and one of the great things about human beings is that we get stressed! We all know that with college applications, endless hours of homework, cause fair (save the elephants!), we have a lot on our plates--and to put the beautiful, red cherry on top, there are life’s inevitable ups and downs. With all this in mind, why is it that when Hashem told Avraham to “go for yourself from your land...to the land that I will show you,” Avraham doesn't get stressed out?
Hashem is asking Avraham to leave the home that is so familiar, the home that he knows inside and out, to a land that he can’t even find on a map! Hashem just says, “to the land that I will show you.” Avraham has to pack everything up and just travel! Wouldn’t you want to know where you’re going? When you’re going to get there? Let’s face it, moving is downright stressful for a human, but Avraham is not fazed. Why?
I will tell you why. Because of Lech Lecha. It says it right there, in the first verse! Lech Lecha -- go for yourself. Hashem could have just ended it at Lech, just go--but no, He decided to add the Lecha, for yourself.
Avraham traveled to embark on a journey where he will find himself. Now his travel has a meaning, a purpose, an end goal. This is what eased the great mind of Avraham. When you have a clear vision of what you want your end goal to be, the travel oddly becomes easier!
This brings up another interesting question: Avraham Avinu is, well, Avraham Avinu! What is it about himself that he needs to find?
As I previously said, he was human—and there is always something in all of us that we can grow from, there is always something that we can improve on.
When Hashem called on Avraham to find himself, He chose a specific destination for him: Israel. Hashem implied that this is the best place to find who you really are. It’s a maturity process, so to speak, and this process of setting forth on a soul search is a key to the door and everyone should go through it.
I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, right, who has the time? But let me open your eyes to something. The Hebrew word for “life” is chaim, and it always seems to appear in plural form. This is because life is a never-ending process of self-discovery. The time is now, take advantage of it! It’s common to hear, Come on, this only happens once in a lifetime! Well, hello! Every day happens once in a lifetime! This moment, right now, you are never going to have it again! It’s the only chance you’re really going to get. So look to the person to the right of you, and look to the person to the left of you, and appreciate them! Appreciate what you have. Love the time you are blessed to have. It is said that Hashem tells each one of us “Lech Lecha” -- go for yourself. Avraham heard the call; hopefully, we will too.
Next year in Jerusalem!
Talya Gordon on Parshat Lech Lecha
“I need Shoshi, Maayan, and Ezra to please leave the room,” I shouted. Confusion filled the room as everyone wondered why I was requesting such a thing. I waited for a moment, letting the uneasiness sink in. Then I began.
So you all probably think I’m crazy right now, but what I just demonstrated to you is what Hashem told Avraham in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Lech Lecha. While it may have seemed crazy that I just asked Shoshi, Maayan, and Ezra to leave the room, how much crazier does it seem that Hashem asked Avraham to leave his home and the land that he had lived in for his entire life?
Just imagine this: You wake up one morning, and you are going about your daily activities. For Avraham, that was probably doing acts of kindness; but still, it was just a typical day for him. Then suddenly, God appears to him and says: לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ.
Hashem wanted Avraham to leave at His command, and Avraham listened right away. Avraham obeyed because of Hashem’s promise to make him a great nation. But this basic concept, the foundation of our entire religion, has bothered me. After all, if Hashem came to me and asked me to move and start an entirely new life, would I listen? Sure, I’m no Avraham, but still...how did he have enough faith?
What I find most peculiar is that Avraham didn’t even know where he was going. He was supposed to just go on a journey, and when Hashem told him to stop, he would.
I think that this comes to teach us that while in some areas of life, it is beneficial to have an ending point, a specific goal, we are never supposed to have an ending goal in our spiritual growth. Each and every one of us always has room to grow in our spirituality, no matter who we are. For this reason, Hashem demonstrates to us that—without an end goal in mind—Avraham is willing to grow spiritually without even knowing how he will develop or how far he will travel.
Avraham encounters many obstacles; so, too, we will encounter many obstacles in our spiritual journeys through life as well. It is simply inevitable. As soon as Avraham and Sarai leave their hometown, they encounter a king who wants to sleep with Sarai and kill Avraham. They are forced to lie and say that Avraham is Sarai’s brother in order to keep him alive. This comes to teach us that—even though Avraham is listening to Hashem and trying to grow spiritually—he will encounter barriers. It is his job, and our job, to try and maneuver around these barriers and grow nonetheless.
This theme is again present when the Jews receive the Torah, when they all proclaimed in unison, “נעשה ונשמה--we will do, and then we will hear.” The order of the words in this phrase comes to teach us that we, as B’nei Yisrael, must be willing to grow through action, for only then can we ensure that we are unlimited. Only then will we be able to grow as much as we possibly can.