At the end of last week’s parsha, which we didn’t read this year, we are introduced to Abram. Abram who will eventually become Abraham. We also meet briefly Abram’s father Terah, and Abram’s nephew, Lot. In addition, we learn of SARAI, Abram’s beautiful wife. So, the cast of characters for Lech-Lecha, this week’s parsha, is there. But it’s a pretty dry recounting of the members of this family, and, in addition to that recounting, we also get a bit of an itinerary about where they have been and where they are going.
So, when we read this week’s portion, Lech Lecha, we are thrust immediately into a very dramatic moment—when God commands Abram, LECH-LECHA, go forth. Nothing dry about that. Go forth and leave your father’s land. We don’t know if Abram knows where he is going—has God told him of his destination, or does Abram simply have so much faith that he can trust that God will guide his way? And, as the Eytz Hayyim tells us, this is the first of many such moments when God lets the Jewish people know not only that Israel is our homeland but also that we are blessed. Abram is told LECH-LECHA, which literally would mean, TAKE YOURSELF, and midrash tells us that the expression means that Abram, if he obeys God, will find his true, his authentic, self. Another interpretation is that LECH-LECHA makes clear that Abram is leaving his homeland for his own good.
Think about the last two parshiyot, the two parshiyot that begin the Torah, Breishis and Noach. In each, there is, like this week, a movement OUT. Adam and Eve, once they have sinned, are exiled from Gad Eden. They are forced to leave Paradise, and they do so in shame and humiliation. Cain, likewise, after killing his brother, is sentenced to wander the earth; again, another exile. Later, Noach also flees. He flees the flood, going to where he knows not, to populate another world. Trusting in God that God will save him and his entire family. Fleeing the awful sin that has surrounded him.
But this week’s movement is very different from the travels of Adam and Eve, Cain, and Noach. In Lech Lecha, Abram is going to a homeland. Here Abram is not moving AWAY; rather, he is moving TOWARD. Toward Israel. Toward his destiny. Our destiny, as painful as the news has been over the last weeks. Unlike Noach and the others, Abram is not running away from anything; instead, he is traveling toward. He is leaving behind the idols of his father and heading toward a new future. Toward the establishment of a radical religion, of monotheism, and of the Jewish people.