2012-10-17 / Religion Column

Lekh Lekhah and the journey to becoming the best we can be

Temple Har Zion

Parashah Lekh Lekhah Gen. 12:1-17:27

Forty-five years ago, on the Shabbat of this parashah, I stood on the bimah of Cong. Beth Torah in Willingboro, led the service, read Torah and recited my haftarah in honor of becoming a Bar Mitzvah. The rabbi was Elihu Elefant, z”l, and the cantor was Dr. Leonard Juros.

This was a rite of passage. It was a leaving of childhood and stepping into acceptance as a “Jewish adult,” at least in terms of being counted in a minyan and being called to the Torah.

One of the things I learned in preparing to be a Bar Mitzvah was that Torah is much more than an “old book” of outdated mythology and rules. It is a vibrant guide to life, as can be learned from Parashat Lekh Lekhah.

In this parashah, our forefather Abram leaves his home in Ur and arrives in the Land. Soon he suffers a famine and is forced to go to Egypt. This mirrors the disappointments and difficult times of adolescence and the early teen years, where many things, both physical and emotional, are churning.

But soon Abram has to take on the role of warrior and save his nephew, Lot, who has been taken captive. This parallels our need, as young adults, to find our power, make a living, possibly start a family. Great strength and courage are required of us, as they were for Abram.

Hopefully, along the path of our life we, like Abram, will encounter special beings (like Melchitzedek, Priest of God-Most-High) who will encourage us and support us, and maybe even give us a glimpse into the possibility of a spiritual view of the Universe.

Abram looks up at the stars (rather than the dust this time) and sees the future: his descendants (us) will be successful and numerous. We, too, should look up, as we hope to draw support and inspiration from the Heavens, from God, from our Tradition.

Abram performs a ritual during which he has a dark dream of the future. And our lives are filled with rituals—religious and secular—that help us move into a more assured, though possibly challenging, future.

Finally, Abram’s name is changed to “Abraham” by adding a letter of God’s Name (hei) to his. He is accepted into the Covenant through the ritual of circumcision, and becomes truly one of God’s People—the first Jew. Similarly, we hope that through this life journey we will achieve the same end, and truly become the best Jew, the best person, we can be.

These seven stages— Leaving, Disappointment, Development, Initiation, Expansion, Prophecy, Covenant—are a map of the soul’s potential development, what Rabbi Shefa Gold calls the “Covenantal Journey.”

The result of this journey is that we get to become a blessing, as Abram is told: “Go forth from your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” [Gen. 12: 1, 2]

May we travel this path with integrity and strength, to fulfill the blessing given to our Father Abraham. May we be blessed by and be a blessing for all whom we encounter, fulfilling the promise of becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

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