Toward Shabbat – Lech Lecha

Noah was a virtuous soul in many ways. His care for the animals, his naming them through his relationship with them creates the awakening of love that emerges when we connect to one another. This promotes the strength and courage to actively awaken the power of working together to elevate our world. The model of knowing the other which creates intimacy and empathy is so essential to the salvation of our planet and the elixir (key) to peacemaking. We are all interconnected and each of us can now fulfill our task of returning to a humane, moral way of being on our earth.
We move on from the righteous independent Tzadik Noach, whose virtue in committed, consistent, caring for a plethora of hungry animals, getting to know each of them individually through his tireless giving and caring, to Avraham Avinu, Noach taught us the importance of relationship, EMPATHY,( ‘Rachamim’) how to truly know one another through giving, whether animals or human beings, and Avraham teaches us the character trait of abundant KINDNESS (‘Chesed’) through sacrificing his riches and opening his doors to all whom he encountered.
Avraham left the prosperous, powerful capital city of Ur, to follow a ‘calling’-‘Lech Lecha’, moving from this center of a highly developed civilization to create a new model of civilization in the land of Israel. He moved from this affluence to a tent in Beersheba or Chevron. It meant a major adjustment abandoning the unlimited cultural opportunities of life in the big city, but he had an inner calling to leave his father’s house to follow his father in heaven which could be reached only in the Holy Land. There are times in our life where we risk the unknown, our place of security and habit, to journey to ‘a place which will be shown to us’ for something in our soul draws us there (Bereishit, 12:1).Abraham and Sarah became zealous teachers of a new path that emerged from their souls and connection to the Infinite, people who continually welcomed guests into their home and shared their awakening. In effect, they were operating a hotel with very great expenses, but they chose to use their wealth to attract humankind to monotheistic ideals.
The Lord calls to Avraham, “lech lecha,” and our commentators give us several antithetical interpretations of what these two words mean. The Divrei Elimelech says it means ‘Get yourself out,’ distance yourself from being centered on yourself. Get the ‘you’ out of your work. Do not focus your whole work on the improvement of your own, solitary self which is a ‘spiritual hedonism’, a misguided quest for your own private salvation. This misidentification diminishes the truer interconnected unified perspective that unites us all in the work of uplifting our world.
The Ishbitzer, on the other hand, says it means ‘Go into your own self.’ You cannot find life in the external things of this world. They are not life giving. The basic quality of life giving can only be found within your own self. Go therein! Follow your bliss, your inner voice that informs what you are drawn to; discover the unique gifts that Hashem has bestowed upon you. Have the courage to let go of allegiance to values and habits from your homes (‘Bet Avicha’) and communities ‘(‘Artzecha’) and cultures (‘Moladitecha’) that may not be resonant with your ‘calling'(12:1).
The Sfat Emet teaches that it means that a person should always ‘Be a walker, and keep moving,’ Be a ‘Mehalech’ always marching from one rung to another. He suggests that this is also a soul travelling, referring to the intellectual and spiritual movement of his soul from level to level as one continually searches for G-d. For habit and routine makes things seem natural and this ‘nature’ hides the inner light. This is true even of Torah and commandments when we do them out of habit. >  They become our nature and we forget their inner meaning. Therefore, we always need to seek out some new meaning, risk the new and die to the old, (transformation and rebirth).Thus, the verse says, ‘Get thee out of the land,’ a person should always keep walking ‘To that which I shall show thee.’ A new discovery will always emerge if we continue to move forward and ‘risk the new.’ Tha is why a person is called a ‘walker’, rather than a person of habit who remains with the same pattern every day. Whoever stands still is not renewed, for nature holds him/her fast, so a person must keep walking.
And ‘Go to a land which I will show you’ (12:1). This takes faith to risk the unknown, to trust the inner calling, even when the revealed, tangible evidence is not yet visible. Follow the guidance of your soul, and the promised land will appear. “Which I will show you’ refers to that which a person cannot see on his/her own, but if you take the first step, the Lord will reveal the blessing that was meant for you. ‘Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” (Psalm 115).
When you follow your inner soul calling, your bliss, ‘You will BE a blessing’ (12:2). The light will shine forth from you, you will be enlightened even without saying or doing anything, the transmission of blessing from you will be instantaneous; anyone who even comes close to you will become blessed. You will have become a blessing! G-d’s Presence will emanate from you. Those who have all been blessed to encounter a soul whose ‘Light shines forth’ like this recognize that unique moment. It is electrifying and unforgettable.
At the end of the parsha we read of the law of circumcision (17:12). Circumcision marked a certain segregation of Jewry from the rest of humankind. However, Avram’s name was changed to Avraham at the time connoting his role as ‘Av Hamon Goyim’-A Father of a Multitude of Nations (17:4). This implies here a unique view of universalism. The obligation and purpose of Brit Milah will only be fulfilled if Jews uphold their part of the contract namely to couple their suffering of the procedure with a commitment to uplift the whole world through the covenant of Abraham. The Jew must be dedicated to the amelioration of both the physical and spiritual elevation of the world. So, the concept of a Jew’s ‘Chosenness’ was based on a goal, a task, and a burden rather than privileges, and it is this idea which distinguishes the Jewish dimension of particularism from other forms of independence and separation from the masses (‘a people apart, a chosen people’). We are a people whose particularism leads to a universalism; a mandate that is enhanced by our particular commandments whose goal is the elevation of all humankind.
It is for this reason that after Abraham underwent the ‘Brit Milah’ (circumcision), the Torah elaborates on his kindness and dedication to all humankind. For what did Abraham do on the third day after the Brit when his pain was most acute? He sat outside in the tent in the scalding heat of the midday sun, even though he knew it would aggravate his pain. By so doing he would be able to show generosity and hospitality to total strangers. And to whom was Avraham eventually generous and hospitable? To those whom he thought were pagan Arabs who were passing on the road (he didn’t know they were angels), and he ran toward the people whom he thought worshipped the dust of the earth and pleaded with them to enter his house and partake of a meal that Sarah prepared.He excused himself from G-d so that he may devote himself to show kindness to strangers. So the segregation which comes as a result of Brit Milah is accompanied by the most sublime ideals of universalism (A ‘Brit Av hamon Goyim’).
May our going out on our way (Lech Lecha) bring us to a place of enlightenment and caring for the whole world, so we will ‘be a blessing’! Have a most wonderful Shabbat, one filled with kindness and revelation. One filled with recognizing your inner calling and making a commitment to follow it! Lech Lecha!
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Mel