This Week’s Parasha Is Brought to You by Lekh

The first word the Kadosh Barukh Hu speaks to Avraham is ‘lekh’.  Avraham listens and goes walking with, and after, and in pursuit of the Kadosh Barukh Hu.  When the Kadosh Barukh Hu presents the instruction that describes what He seeks from Avraham, He says to him, “Hithaleikh! – Walk your very self in my Presence, before Me.” (B’reisheet 17:1).  The last instruction of the Kadosh Barukh Hu to Avraham, which is the Akeda, begins with lekh.  At beginning and end, the first and last word to Avraham is lekh, walk.  And when Avraham commissions his warden to get a wife for his son Yitzhak he uses the same ‘Lekh’ in 24:4.  And when the warden raises the all-important question, “What happens if she does not want to walk back to the Promised Land with me; what happens if she does not want to return with me…”, once again the word is lekh. This walking is not about walking. This is walking the Avrahamic path. This is the walking of ‘walk in His ways’.

Her mother and brother ask her in B’reisheet 24:58: “And they summoned Rivka, and they said to her, ‘Will you walk/go with this man?’” And she said, ‘Eileikh-I will go’; once again the verb ‘lekh’.  And in 24:61 in last week’s Parasha, twice again the verb ‘lekh’ is used to describe her path to Yitzhak.  In other words, when Rivka says eileikh she uses the same word that was the first word of the Kadosh Barukh Hu to Avraham. This is coded language.  What is she saying?  I am prepared to follow the Avrahamic footsteps.  In this week’s Parasha it gets even better.  When the twins are wrestling in her womb, and she wants to know the meaning of this, we read (25:22) VaTeiLeKH, she went to inquire of God.  When she, in the matriarchal role of designating the next patriarch, instructs the next patriarch Ya’akov to obey her she tells him in 27:9, ‘Lekh’.  When he goes, he does so with this same verb, VaYeiLeKh in 27:14.  And after the ordeal of the death bed encounter with Yitzhak, Yitzhak and Rivka instruct Ya’akov in 28:2, ‘Leikh — back to the old homestead to find a wife.’  That is what he does with the very same Leikh in 28:5.

Beginning with her agreement to go to the Promised Land to marry Yitzhak, Rivka speaks four times. In each case she speaks with the verb ‘lekh’.

There is more to the career of ‘lekh’. In the brakhot of Vayikra 26:12  we find the counterpart to God’s Hit’haleikh — summons of Avraham, in God’s promise of brakha to the Jewish people V’hit’halakhti — and I will walk My very Self in your midst.  The career of lekh culminates in Megillat Rut.  In Rut the verb ‘lekh’ serves as an organizing principle.  Naomi and Elimelekh undo the lekh of Avraham when they move from Yehuda to Moav.  They are sadly retracing hence uprooting the Avrahamic steps.  They are undoing the lekh of Avraham and of Rivka.

When Naomi realizes that she must retrace the Avrahamic footsteps, she sets out with the verb lekh (see Rut 1:7).  In Rut 1:8, with the same lekh, she tells her daughters-in-law not to retrace those Avrahamic footsteps; and again, with greater intensity in 1:12.  When Rut decides to follow Naomi her first words of commitment are, “Ki el asher teilkhi eilekh…Wherever you walk, I will walk…”  Ruth invokes the Avrahamic gesture with the verb ‘lekh’.  When Boaz, in 2:11, praises Rut he declares her Avrahamic legacy.  “And Boaz replied and said to her (Rut), ‘Surely it has been told to me everything you did for your mother-in-law after your husband died.  The way in which you abandoned your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and you came, walked, went to a people that you did not know a day or two ago.’”

Compare this verse with B’reisheet 12:1.  ‘The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth (lekh) from your native land and from the land of your birth, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’ Rut has fulfilled the Avrahamic gesture of Avraham and Rivka.  For not only did she follow their path, and move from the land of pagans to the land of promise, but in so doing she redeemed Naomi who had walked in the opposite direction undoing the Avrahamic path.

Rivka is the successor to the Avrahamic role. To become the Matriarch and wife of Yitzhak she must follow Avraham.  She does so throughout her life.  ‘V’halakhta b’drakhav, Walk in His ways’ and not ‘believe in me’ is the action of attachment to the Kadosh Barukh Hu.  The One who is the Makom-the Everywhere, is found in lekh, by walking to and with Him everywhere.  The One who is not seen or material is apprehended only through lekh, by pursuing Him.  This is the Avrahamic walking, and in his footsteps walks Rivka, and in her footsteps walks Rut.

About the Author
Rabbi Yehiel Poupko is Rabbinic Scholar at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
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