I think reading Lech Lecha this week is especially difficult. God promises Abraham and his descendents the land of Israel, inspiring a millenia-long relationship between the land of Israel and the Jewish people that continues to this day.
In the wake of the recent events, I think many of us are questioning what it means to be the bearers of that promise. I don’t think I will answer those questions in the course of a blog post; I also think that there are different and sometimes contradictory answers that may all be right.
Instead, I want to take elements of God’s promise to Abraham and look at different ways these elements might meet us in our lives right now:
Genesis 12: 1-5 (Mechon Mamre JPS Translation)
1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee. 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing. 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 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.
“Lech Lecha -go to yourself”. Go to who you want to be. Stay true to yourself. Turn towards your soul.
“Meartzecha umemoladetecha -from your land and from your homeland.” Many Israelis have been physically exiled from their homes; many expats are flying back to Israel; Olim are flying back to the countries they grew up in. Even those of us that are staying put, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora, are feeling a sense of exile. Something we thought was a home – a safe place, a secure place for us and our families -is revealed as no longer so. All of us right now, to different levels and in different ways, are mourning the loss of home. Abraham had to endure a process of displacement and loss of home in order to become Abraham. We know now, that we are not alone, but are following our spiritual ancestor’s journey.
“El haaretz asher areka -to the land that I will show you.” Traditionally we say that this is the land of Israel, but perhaps right now, it is to the land that is being revealed to us: The real Israel that we see when we see people from all walks of life coming to help each other in the wake of tragedy. Or maybe it is having an epiphany and the land that we see is the knowledge that we need a relocation, either to Israel or away from her.
“Veheyey bracha -and you shall be a blessing.” How can we be a blessing during this time? What is one small act we can do to increase the good in this universe?
“Venivrichu becha kol mishpechot haadama -and all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you.” At this time, we are focused on support for the Jewish people and rightly so -we have experienced the greatest tragedy in Jewish history since the Holocaust, and need to come together and support each other. But we must not lose sight of the fact that our mission as Jews is to be universalists as well and to ask how we can help all of God’s people.
May we know better days ahead.