My portion, Lech Lecha, is all about journeys. In fact, the title MEANS “go out.” Well, technically, it doesn’t EXACTLY mean that, and that’s where it gets interesting. The literal translation of lech lecha is “go to yourself.”
What does that really mean?
On the surface, it seems like Abraham was told by God to go a different place. So what “lech lecha” might be telling us that is that when you go to a different place, you find out new things about yourself.
The lesson here is that sometimes you have to go far away from your comfort zone in order to learn who you really are. That was true for Abraham and Sarah. It was also true for someone else who did a lot of travelling whom we recall this weekend: Christopher Columbus. And it’s true for me as well.
Back in Abraham’s home, everyone was stuck in the old way of thinking, believing in idols. So then he went to the new land and immediately he faced challenges. There was a famine, so he had to go down to Egypt. There he faced even more challenges. Then when he returned to the land, his nephew Lot was kidnapped and Abraham found himself fighting in the middle of a war. He managed to rescue Lot and win over lots of new friends. At the end of the portion, he receives a new name (his prior name had been Abram), a new son, Ishmael and a promise that he will be the father of many nations.
Abraham is also given a title – a name. He’s not called a Jew (Jews didn’t exist yet), but a Hebrew. The word Hebrew, or IVRI, means one who crosses over. Abraham has literally crossed over to a new place and new identity. But he also has learned how to be the only one on one side, while the whole world is on the other. Part of being on a journey of self discovery is learning how to stand up to peer pressure.
Some of you may know that I enjoy watching classic movies. One movie stand out that has a similar theme to the Abraham story, the film “Twelve Angry Men,” starring Henry Fonda, who plays the one juror who refuses to believe that the accused has committed murder, even when there is a lot of evidence against him. In the end, he is really persuasive and the one lonely juror is able to convince the others to come over to his side. In the end, we never know whether the guy is guilty or innocent. Not even Fonda knows. But we learn not to rush to judgment. The jurors are on their own journey of self discovery and they end up very far from where they begin, even though they have never left the room.
Now that I am a bar mitzvah, I know that there will be many times when I have to take a stand, maybe even an unpopular one. It also means being able to stand up for those who need assistance. For my mitzvah project, I am working with Habitat for Humanity to improve low income housing in Fairfield. I’m also doing a fundraiser for earthquake victims of Haiti.
Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Joey Chimes on Lech Lecha
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