Lech Lecha: Going towards Ourselves

In Parshat Lech Lecha we witness a journey. Avraham’s journey.

Lech Lecha means you shall journey. It also can be interpreted as “go towards yourself”.

Go towards yourself?

What was Avraham going towards and what was he leaving behind?

Avraham lived under King Nimrod’s rule. His father Terach was a chief minister in the kingdom. The king, his father, and all of those around him were idol worshipers.

Avraham was leaving a society of idol worshipers. But it was more than that. It was an ugly society filled with child sacrifice, violence, and selfishness. But it’s what he knew. It’s what he was taught.  It would have been easy to pick up the mantle from his father, a much respected advisor to a most powerful boss, and continue the paternal legacy. It would have been understandable. It would have been natural.

But as the father of faith in one G-d, Avraham clearly took a different route.

What was it about Avraham that he was able to journey, not towards something he grew up with, but to travel towards something he didn’t.

According to Rav Dov Ber Pinson, Avraham’s paradigm shift, his ability to leave his comfort zone, was the result of a “soft heart” and his ability to be a “mover”.

A mover? A soft heart?

A mover is in perpetual motion; growing and expanding towards “himself”. But this self is not the one dictated and defined by society nor familial conditioning. This self leaves the shadows of the past and journeys to a new destiny. One marked by authenticity, independence, and an open spirit.

Avraham had a soft heart among a society of heavy-hearted people. This means Avraham was open to the possibility of change. He had the strength to strive towards what was “unnatural” to him. To reach outside of himself.  To transition. To be amenable to growth. To tweak his inner tendencies.

This was unlike those with a heavy heart. Stuck, stubborn, and comfortable in their own zone, whether it was pleasant or miserable, the majority of society toed the line. Not Avraham. He refused to get stuck in the maze of complacency. His soft heart propelled him towards true lech lecha…towards his authentic self.

As the first official Jew and forefather of its nation, Avraham broke the chains of idol worship towards absolute trust in one G-d. Avraham overruled his own nature, the one he had inherited, and moved towards a monotheistic man of faith.

As a psychotherapist, as an observer of life, I see the power in childhood conditioning. I also recognize the influence of society on our sense of self. Both are huge. Our emotional compass, our reactivity, and often our perceived needs and aspirations come from the childhood/societal intersection.

For some, this crossroads is the beginning, and the end of their journey. This is their Lech Lecha. There is nothing to leave behind. It’s too hard, so they take it with them. The family patterns, the societal standards and expectations, the ego driven desires and dreams. They take it all with them and they pass it on. Perhaps without this they feel lost. Perhaps without this they feel fragile.  Maybe they fear falling in uncharted territory. Maybe their unaware. It’s understandable. It’s natural.

But for others it’s not enough, just as it was not enough for Avraham.

For them, Lech Lecha looks different.

For them, it’s about taking risks and moving outside of the known zone. It’s about being unnatural.

For them it’s about renewal. Living in ways that are new. Loving in ways that are new. Believing in ways that are new. Beckoned by Avraham’s pioneering spirit.

We are not Avraham, nor are we expected to be. We are carried on his broad shoulders. We are not being asked to be the father of faith. That role has been filled. We are being asked to be a mover. To be one with a soft heart. To be one who journeys to ourselves and leaves the rest behind.  Towards Lech Lecha.

About the Author
Karen Wolfers Rapaport is a psychotherapist specializing in Narrative Therapy. She holds a BA from UCLA and an MA in Counseling Psychology from Boston College. She received her training from Tufts University. In addition to her therapeutic work and free lance writing for Chabad.org, Aish.com and others, Karen works for the largest English publishing house in Israel where she leads and facilitates discussion groups with Israelis from every spectrum of society, aiming to create unity and respect.
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