Friday, October 19, 2018 /10 Heshvan, 5779
Parashat Lekh L’kha Genesis 12:1-17:27
God’s words to Abraham in this week’s Torah portion: “Go forth from your land…” (Gen. 12:1)
God’s words to Abraham in next week’s Torah portion: “Go forth to the land of Moriah… (Gen 22:2)
In both cases, the Hebrew words for “Go forth” are identical: lech-l’cha. The significant difference, not only the land about which God is commanding Abraham, is in the preposition. In the text of this week, Abraham is instructed to go from; in next week’s reading, Abraham is told to go to.
It may appear absurdly simple, but there is profound wisdom in these seemingly parallel directives: one cannot go forth to, until one has gone forth from. One must first depart, before one can advance. Leaving is a prerequisite to approaching, and our two subsequent portions make this abundantly clear.
Yet, we have our inner reluctance to experience departing.
I recall how after I dropped off each of my two children at their respective undergraduate schools, six years apart, I cried in the car as I turned away. In fact, upon moving my son, my eldest, into his dorm at Reed College in Portland, and watching him gallivant across the quad with a new acquaintance, I cried for a good two hours as I proceeded southwards on Interstate 5 back to the safety of California. When it came time for number two, my daughter, I was prepared. But six years later, I again cried for two hours along Interstate 5 back down from Santa Cruz.
They were going forth to, but I experienced the going forth from. Little did I understand then the wisdom of our two Torah portions: that the from is necessary in order to experience the to. Today, I embrace the from, and I encourage congregations and congregants to do so, as well, so that we can derive the potential and the possibility which comes when we let go, and when we go forth from.
Rabbi Doug Kohn