Lech Lecha, Genesis 12:1-17:27
The story of our biblical ancestors Abraham and Sarah is one of great courage and profound change. Their journey — our journey — begins with God’s invitation to them: Lech lecha.
Hearing God’s call to go forth from Haran, Abram responds affirmatively to God’s request to move into new, uncharted territory. By heeding this call, Abram and his descendents are promised the rewards of God’s covenant — land, wealth and progeny.
But what is it that pushes Abram and Sarai, already well established in their lives, to embark on such a different and potentially difficult trek? Lech Lecha. At first, this simple phrase seems just that — simple. God instructs Abram: Lech lecha me’artsecha umimoladetecha umibeyt avicha el-ha’aretz asher ar’eka. (Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.) But a closer look suggests that this is something far more deliberate and profound.
This is not only a call to follow God, but a call to break away from all of the things that, up until this point, have defined Abram’s existence. His land. His birthplace. His father’s home. In fact, the text places these words in reverse physical order knowing that certain ties are harder to break than others. For example, Abram must first leave the familiarity and protection of his family home; however, beyt avicha is actually last on the list of places from which he will break free. It is so hard to forego the hopes and dreams of our family. What about our own expectations, holding us back from taking a chance, making a change?
Undoubtedly, this will not be an easy expedition — literally or metaphorically — for our forefather. This is a call to a whole new self — an authentic self. Even our text hints at the importance of this moment for Abram.
According to the Plaut commentary, Haran — the place where Abram heard God’s voice — is literally “a crossroads” in the ancient Sumerian language, a major intersection for the important highways and trade routes of his day. If we re-read the text in this vein, God calls to Abram while he stands at a crossroads — not only at the crossroads of his physical existence, but at the crossroads of his personal life, his self-understanding.
You and I are wanderers, too, in our own journey of life. We stand at our personal crossroads, waiting to hear God, waiting to feel something, waiting for our own personal “lech lecha.” We want to hear the call. We want to become the people we know we are meant to be. We want to become our best selves. But will we allow ourselves to hear the call? How will we open ourselves up to it? And will we allow ourselves to take the first step.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)