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Shiurim & Adult Education
THOUGHTS FOR SHABBAT PARASHAT LECH LECHA BY AVI SON
This week’s parsha begins with Hashem instructing Avram (Avraham) with the words “lech lecha.” We usually translate this as “go for yourself” as Hashem instructs Avraham to leave his home and travel onwards in search of the new land that will be shown to him. However, in Hebrew lamud can mean ‘for’ but it can also mean ‘to’, therefore perhaps another way to view this opening line is Hashem instructing Avraham to “go to yourself.” In this context, there is little difference between these two translations, but this duality can help us understand the deeper meaning of Hashem’s instruction. It was not merely a physical journey and transformation that had to occur, but also an internal spiritual one. Avraham was told to find himself, to strive and reach his full potential and in doing so to ultimately become the “blessing” that would change the world. To go to himself, the best version of himself, that would exist through his own effort, work and willingness to change.
With this reading in mind, the continuation of the pasuk takes on a whole new meaning. Hashem tells Avraham to go “from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Once again this is not merely a physical separation but an emotional and spiritual once. Hashem outlines, in order of intensity from least to most, the factors which have the largest impact on a person’s life. Beginning with their land, places have different customs and traditions, life in England may look very different to other countries in different parts of the world. Even more impactful than the land where you currently reside, is the place where you were born and raised, this has a far deeper and more resounding impact upon someone’s life. I realised this in yeshiva, as when living amongst boys of the same age, with similar ideology and beliefs to you, it is incredible how the fact that you were raised in different countries can mean that you are very different. Even now if you go to Israel, you can tell fairly easily where people came from, whether it be their accents, mannerisms or ability to wait in a queue! Finally, the factor which is most impactful on one’s life is their family, their father’s house, these are the people who mould and shape us the most. For Avraham all three of these were potentially negative influences and therefore in order to reach his full potential he needed to move on away from them, both physically and spiritually. For us, these influences can be either negative or positive, the lesson we need to learn is to ensure that we build for ourselves warm, welcoming, G-d fearing communities and even more importantly, warm, welcoming, G-d fearing homes!
One can perhaps be cynical and argue that it was easy for Avraham as Hashem spoke directly to him and promised him great rewards for his faith and his compliance with Hashem’s commandments, and that it is therefore much more challenging for a regular person to go through this transition and reach their full potential. Sforno says something very interesting, he says that Hashem broadcasted this message this notion of “lech lecha” to the entire world, but like someone searching for the correct radio frequency, only Avraham was actively listening, and therefore only Avraham took these messages on board.
The truth is that this message is a timeless one, the words “lech lecha” still ring out today for those who are actively trying to listen, the question is, will we internalise them? Will we strive, either through the physical journey to Israel or the spiritual journey to remove ourselves from the negative influences around us that weigh us down, to go to ourselves and reach our full potential. To become the very best that we could be, so that maybe, like Avraham before us, we can one day merit to not only be blessed but be a blessing in of ourselves.