A personal journey; following in Abraham’s and Sarah’s footsteps

Google images, free, without a block on posting. Images used in Sunday school classes.
Google images, free, without a block on posting. Images used in Sunday school classes.

Genesis 12 Parashat Lech L’cha

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃

The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”

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And I heard a voice in my head that said to me kindly, ” It is time to leave, to go out. You have outgrown what this place, where your family lives, has offered you. It has nurtured you for better or for worse. You will not continue to grow upwards if you stay here. I am awaiting you. You will find your way. It is a promise!”

I had decided to leave my childhood boyfriend who I had married and divorced. I had decided that I needed to learn, I needed to grow. I didn’t want to leave and go on my journey alone. I needed someone to lean on. I needed my brother at the time to lead the way. I knew that his company would give me strength to continue on. I knew that his rabbinical school training would come in handy and help to enrich my own life and guide me.

וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה׃

I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing.

I needed to see myself that I was and could be a blessing to myself and others. I knew that I could if I gave myself that opportunity. It was not going to happen staying back in Chicago. I wish that it would but I knew that it wouldn’t.  I had to dig inside. I had to look outside of my zone and find what awakened the “giving blessing” within me.

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I didn’t know what awaited me along my journey. I was going to New York, to JTS, to 3080 Broadway,  to study. I didn’t know how I would pay for it. I didn’t know where I would live. I didn’t know how I would support myself but somehow I knew that I had to trust. I knew that things would work out, that I would find my way. I had trust in my sense of Gd that Gd would guide me through my challenges.

וַאֲבָֽרֲכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃

I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.”

And that next four years whizzed by. I found a place to live that I liked. I found a way to give by organizing Shabbat dinners in my building for anyone who wanted to join in. I found a job where I would be appreciated for my teaching Hebrew school Torah layning skills. I had found out that I would be receiving a full scholarship for my learning. So far so many pieces had fallen into place. I felt so blessed and fortunate. In turn I was able to bless those around me with sharing acts of hesed.

וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ אַבְרָ֗ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֤ר אֵלָיו֙ יְהוָ֔ה וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ אִתּ֖וֹ ל֑וֹט וְאַבְרָ֗ם בֶּן־חָמֵ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ וְשִׁבְעִ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה בְּצֵאת֖וֹ מֵחָרָֽן׃

Abram went forth as the LORD had commanded him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

But now that I was about to finish the four years of my learning, I wondered what was next? I had begun at the age of 24.  I waited for another voice to pierce my thoughts. I couldn’t remain a student there. My time was finishing. I was now turning 28.  I wondered what was in store for me next? But I was prepared to journey forth once again.

וַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָרָ֑ן וַיֵּצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֙כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן׃

Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in the land of Canaan,

I took myself in hand and told myself that things would work out. I took myself to a celebration at Stephen S Weiss free synagogue, what a “wealthy and healthy synagogue”  Shabbat Hamoreh. I saw a young man sitting by himself and wondered to myself, why would a young man be sitting by himself at services? Where was his girlfriend, his family? Would he mind my company? So I tripped over him as I  set out to cross over him to find myself a seat in the land of so many empty seats. When I arrived at my seat, I apologized to him for tripping over him. He smiled up at me.

וַיַּעֲבֹ֤ר אַבְרָם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ עַ֚ד מְק֣וֹם שְׁכֶ֔ם עַ֖ד אֵל֣וֹן מוֹרֶ֑ה וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י אָ֥ז בָּאָֽרֶץ׃

Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, at the terebinth of Moreh. The Canaanites were then in the land.

After I tripped over him, I settled in and leaned back to enjoy the services, under the branches of the Sukkah of peace, the voices of the singers that wafted up from the choir box, that were then in the land of the services.

וַיֵּרָ֤א יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְזַ֨רְעֲךָ֔ אֶתֵּ֖ן אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֑את וַיִּ֤בֶן שָׁם֙ מִזְבֵּ֔חַ לַיהוָ֖ה הַנִּרְאֶ֥ה אֵלָֽיו׃

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will assign this land to your offspring.” And he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.

and Gd appeared to me, he whispered to me between the opening verses of the Lcha Dodi. “Don’t worry, dear Claire. I am with you. I will assign this land to you, meaning that you need not be afraid. I will show you what is to be your next step. Trust yourself. Trust me. If you think that this young man has potential, give him a chance. After all, he has such a nice smile. “

Picture taken by me

וַיַּעְתֵּ֨ק מִשָּׁ֜ם הָהָ֗רָה מִקֶּ֛דֶם לְבֵֽית־אֵ֖ל וַיֵּ֣ט אָהֳלֹ֑ה בֵּֽית־אֵ֤ל מִיָּם֙ וְהָעַ֣י מִקֶּ֔דֶם וַיִּֽבֶן־שָׁ֤ם מִזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה וַיִּקְרָ֖א בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהוָֽה׃

From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and he built there an altar to the LORD and invoked the LORD by name.

From that service, we moved on down stairs to the Kiddush reception, over towards the Eastern side of the synagogue, over a hill and up one staircase and down another. There I pitched my chair, like an altar, to sit and wait to see what would happen next at the House of Gd’s reception.

And he appeared at the Kiddush as well. He invited me to a party of a mutual friend that Sunday.

וַיִּסַּ֣ע אַבְרָ֔ם הָל֥וֹךְ וְנָס֖וֹעַ הַנֶּֽגְבָּה׃ (פ)

Then Abram journeyed by stages toward the Negeb.

and the two journeyed step by step, by stages,  towards building a relationship.

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In honor of our 38th wedding anniversary. You never know where Gd will lead you and how you will navigate your challenges.

“Let me show you the way. Let me count the stars of promise.”

Shabbat shalom, Parashat Lech L’cha

Rabbi Claire, the teddy bear Rabbi Covid 2020

About the Author
Rabbi Claire conceived of the concept Bears from Bergenfield upon a routine check of the Israeli staff at camp SLC August of 2001. She realized that the world needed to wake up and become aware of the suffering the Israelis were enduring as the Palestinians continued their intifada against them. After 18 years and 195,000 teddy bears amassed and redistributed, Rabbi Claire is searching for more public platforms to proliferate and advance her message, that Jewish lives matter, especially with a teddy bear. Rabbi Claire lives in Bergen County with her husband of 38 years, Larry, and their 4 children, Sam, Shira, Seth, and Sarah Rose, plus their incoming son-in-law Ivan. For further information of how to get involved with this endearing project, contact her at lgcg98@aol.com.
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