Parashat Lekh L’kha

Friday, October 27, 2017 / 7 Heshvan, 5778
Parashat Lekh L’kha Genesis 12:1-17:27
Dear Friends,
What does it mean to be a blessing?  Why is Abraham a blessing?
When we are introduced to Abraham in this week’s Torah portion called Lech L’kha, we shift our focus from the universalism of the twenty generations from Adam and Eve to Noah to Terah (Abraham’s father) to the particularism of the generation of Abraham and Sarah and all that follow. The first twenty generations (and 11 chapters of Torah) show a world that descended into violence and chaos, a world that was destroyed (from the flood) then rebuilt, and then its people dispersed following the Tower of Babel.
In Lech L’kha another shift is made.  Rather than focusing on a people or a nation, the text focuses on individuals from whom the Jewish people will flourish, Abraham and Sarah.
When God calls to Abram (who was not yet Abraham) to leave his country, his birthplace and his father’s house to a land that God will show him, promising him blessing and greatness, Abram said “yes” to the call.
Abram lived in a world that was dark and adrift, where people worshipped idols made of wood and stone and failed to see what Abram saw: God’s presence in their midst.  Abraham would bring light to this darkness.
Nechaman Leibowitz writes that as Abraham left for the Promised Land, “[he] was considered to be the only glimmer of light walking through a world of thick darkness, eventually spreading, illuminating the whole of mankind, enveloping the whole world with its glow.” (New Studies in Bereshit, p.112).  From Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed.
What qualities does Abraham possess that are so worthy of blessing?  Awareness.  He is aware of God’s presence in our world.  He is aware of the tired and weary when he opens his and Sarah’s tent to the three messengers wandering through the desert.  He is aware of the possibility of innocent victims when he advocates on behalf of the wicked towns of Sodom and Gemorrah.  Like all of our leaders, he is far from perfect and made some serious mistakes, however, the model he sets for future generations about faith, hospitality and justice continues to guide us to this day.  That is why we praise Abraham’s name every time we pray and that is why we are blessed by him, by Sarah and the generations that follow.
In our day when we emulate Abraham and Sarah-the first Jews-and their descendants; Moses; our prophets and sages we know  that we are carrying on the blessing that God first gave to Abraham, when he responded “yes” to God’s call millennia ago.
May we continue to hear God’s call and carry forward that blessing we are fortunate to behold.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Charles Briskin