Parshat Lech Lecha
1999Parashat Lech Lecha begins:
Hearing Voices, Heeding God
God said to Abram, "Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis/Bereishit Chapter 12, verses 1-3)
Your Parsha Navigator
1. Abraham is told to "go away from" three different aspects of his home.
What does each element add to our understanding of the verse? The series of places to leave behind begins with the most general description of his home and ends with the most particular--does this order make literary sense?
What significance might be deduced from this arrangement of aspects of home?
2. God is overly clear about what Abraham should leave behind, but explicitly withholds information about where he will be going.
Why won't God tell Abraham where he's supposed to end up?
How might that "not knowing" impact Abraham and his journey--how will he travel differently?
How might that "not knowing" impact Abraham when he actually arrives at his ultimate destination--how will he arrive differently?
What is the difference between a journey with a known destination, and one without?
What does his willingness to go under such conditions reveal about Abraham?
3. What reward is promised to Abraham?
Would Abraham have set out on the journey without the promise of such rewards?
What is the relationship between the first, more personal rewards (being made into a great nation, being blessed, and having his name made great) and the final, more universal blessing, that "all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.?"
4. What does it mean to have one's name made great?
5. What does it mean to be a blessing for other people?
Your Midrash Navigator
When the Holy One said to Abraham, "Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house," what did Abraham resemble? A vial of scent with a tight-fitting lid put away in a corner so that its fragrance could not go forth. As soon as it was moved from that place [and opened], its fragrance began to go forth. So the Holy One said to Abraham, "Abraham, many good deeds are in you. Travel about from place to place, and the greatness of your name will go forth in my world." (Genesis Rabbah 39:2)
1. Why is Abraham "sealed up" while home? Why is he not truly appreciated until he leaves home?
2. Who will appreciate him once he goes forth? How? Why?
3. How would you respond to a divine call? How would you be regarded by those close to you?
4. When is someone heeding a divine call, and when are they "hearing voices?" Would Abraham be regarded, in our day, as having psychological problems? How can we tell the difference?
5. Abraham's summons by God and his going forth occur immediately following his father's death. Why might it happen at that time? Why might it not have happened until then?
The three aspects of home that Abraham is supposed to "go away from"--from his land, from his birthplace, from his father's house--are listed in order from the least to the most difficult spiritual connections that he must sever. He is summoned to leave the comfort and safety of his present, actual situation in order to pursue a future, a potential one that promises greatness but is fraught with fears and pitfalls.
The situation faced by Abraham in Lech Lecha is, put simply, that of life itself. Abraham's courage created a well of blessing from which we can still draw in our own day. Inspired by Abraham's example, may we each find the courage to continually transform our lives into a blessing.
Prepared by Rabbi Jeff Sultar, Cornell Hillel