Hebraic Studies - Parashat Lech Lecha

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Parashat Lech Lecha

Bereshit - Genesis chapter 12: verse 1 to chapter 14: verse 24.


With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

 “Now  said unto Avram: ‘ - Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee’” Bereshit - Genesis 12:1 (JPS version of the Torah).

In our reading above we read about our Patriarch Avraham Avinu, who at the very beginning of the portion is told “Lech lecha” - “Get thee out.”

And therefore the Torah portion is called “Lech lecha”, which is more loosely translated as “get going”.

Elohim commands Avram to leave his birthplace and go to a new land that Elohim will show him. In the first three verses of this portion, (Bereshit 12:1-3) the word “bracha” of course, means “blessing’, appears five times and this corresponds to the five appearances of the word “Or”, meaning light, in Bereshit 1:1-5.

- And Elohim said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light” Bereshit - Genesis 1:3 (JPS).

Just as Elohim uses light in creating the physical world, Elohim uses blessing in the creation of ours, the Jewish people. However, the blessing of Bereshit 12 is conditional upon Avraham’s willingness to express his faith by going forward into the unknown. Moreover, the blessing is not exclusive. The text states that Elohim will not only bless him but that Elohim will bless those who bless Avraham and that Avraham and his descendants will have the honour and responsibility of being a blessing to others.

The opening verses does seem to denote Elohim’s greatest gift to us, after the failure of both Adam and Noach to achieve the unachievable of perfection in the first 11 chapters of the Torah, Avraham is told that he can become a blessing because he is going to live in the world as his essential, imperfect self. He is leaving the place of negativity that is pulling him down, and he is leaving his father’s house so as to be able to be his own person and not have to live someone else’s light, for it is a dark light. There is no greater blessing from Elohim than this.

“So Abram went, as  had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” Bereshit - Genesis 1:4-5 (JPS).

As Avram arrived in Canaan his first stop was at “Shechem,” which means, “Shoulder.” Now Avram had finally arrived at the right place and it is here where Elohim, blessed be He, appears and speaks to him;

“And  appeared unto Abram, and said: ‘Unto thy seed will I give this land’; and he (Avram) builded there an altar unto , who appeared unto him”

Here Elohim gives Avram the promise of a son for the second time, as He clearly said “to thy seed.” We know that Avram at this point was by now either still 75, or 76 years old, and Sarai is not exactly a youngster either, but Elohim continued to promise them a son. However, they would have to wait for another 25 years, before Yitzchak - Isaac would be born.

The wonderful truth is, a promise is a promise, it is a matter of Elohim’s time before the promise would be fulfilled. The point is this, promises, including prayers, will be answered in Elohim’s time and not in ours!

The Torah then tells us that Avram “built an altar to Elohim in Shechem and he worshipped Him.” We must realise that  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, spoke to Avram way back in Ur. Yet, whilst he was up in Charan with his father Terach, Elohim did not speak to him until his father was considered as being “dead,” and that was spiritually dead because as the timeline clearly proves he lived for another 60 years after they departed Charan!

Now Avram had been obedient and arrived in the land that Elohim showed him, and it was there that He once again spoke to him. Thus for us the message is also very clear, it is when we are at the right place Elohim, blessed be He, is able to guide and to lead us!

In conclusion - ‘Lech Lecha’:

As we already know, at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion as we have seen,  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, tells Avram to leave his land, his relatives and his father’s house and travel to an unknown land where Elohim will make him into a great nation. Thus we read;

said unto Avram: - Lech-Lecha Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee’” Bereshit - Genesis 12:1 (JPS).

However it was a rather strange order, because when one’s wants to say to somebody “Go” the Hebrew order should be simply “Lech”, we can add the preposition “le” to the next word, which is supposed to be a destination. As we will know, “le” is the equivalent of the English “to” in order to specify where togo.” But the expression “Lech lecha” is rather unusual. This expression is used in the whole Bible just two times and then only in connection with Avraham. First here in Bereshit 12 when he has to leave ‘Charan’ and second can be found Bereshit 22:2 when Avraham received the order to go to Moriah to offer his son Yitzchak - Isaac as a burnt offering. The expression “Lech Lecha” means literally “Go for yourself.” It is an expression to invite the recipient to go into isolation, to separate himself from others.

Thus the question is, “why does the Torah use the words “Lech-Lecha” which literally means “go for yourself” when as I said before, only the word “Lech” - “go” would have been sufficient?

Elohim was telling Avraham that although this commandment may seem difficult at this time, it is in fact, “for your benefit and for your pleasure” that you will make this journey. “Lech-Lechawas a very personal invitation to enter into a spiritual journey.

Believe me, this is a command that may well be given to all of us at one time during our lives, and it is a command we should really consider entering, for it will bring us into a whole new life, a spiritual life bringing us so much closer to Elohim, blessed be He. “Go-for-yourself” means depart from your comfort zone and enter into an unknown journey, maybe what will seem like a strange place, but it will be a wonderful spiritual place where you will discover your true self and the purpose of Elohim in your life. It is only when you will find that true purpose of your life; you will fulfil your mission on the earth and so much more!

As we all study this Parsha again, I pray that each of us and all of us will “get moving” and find a path to improving our lives as well as that of our community. May each of us find a way to “be a blessing” and then all of us will truly be blessed.

Always remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.


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