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Lekh Lecha 5783 ~ Nov. 4

We all have favorite expressions. One of mine is found in the opening words of our Torah reading for this Shabbat and is the title of this week’s parasha:  Lekh lecha, לך-לך.

As our reading opens, Abram is instructed by God to lekh, ,לך lekha,   .לךIn this command, Abram is told by God to “Go forth from the land from your native land to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

As many of you are aware from our studies, the English translation is more of a commentary rather than a direct translation.  The Hebrew provides us with the opportunity to understand in a much different way.  When we look at the Hebrew letters, we hopefully recognize that without vocalization the letters are precisely the same. However, when the two words are vocalized, the second adds an important concept which is found, not only in this command to Abram, but is also strategically evoked in other places in the Torah.  

A second place that is noteworthy is following the incident of the Golden Calf at Mt. Sinai. Moses is instructed by God to once again go up Mt. Sinai and to carve a second set of commandments. In this instance, the Torah states “pesal lekha,” פסל לך, carve “for yourself” a second set of stones.  In a third instance, as the Children of Israel are about to enter the Promised Land, God commands Moses “shelakh lecha,”  ,שלח לך send “for yourself” scouts to spy out the land to acquire an understanding of its grandeur and how to deal with the inhabitants who are already there.

The question, then, is why is Abram not just told Lekh,,לך  as in “go?” What do we learn by the additional repeated letters or word of lekha,  ,לךliterally, “for yourself.”

In each of these three instances, God’s command has nothing to do with God. Rather it is specific to the individual whom Hashem is instructing to perform the action. For example, in the case of the spies into the land, God is suggesting to Moses that he do it for himself. In what sense? Hashem is saying, Moses I do not need the scouts sent in, I know what is there. Have faith in Me. But if you need to send the scouts in for yourself, either for the purpose of your own strategic plan or because you have to get the Israelites to be on board with you, then go ahead. Why send in scouts? Simply “if you need to for yourself!”

In the incident of the second set of Ten Commandments, the command to “carve for yourself” might imply “Hey Moses, it’s your turn. I already did it once. You smashed them down, so now “you do it by or for yourself.” Or since you smashed the tablets and canceled the covenant, if “you” want to reestablish it, then you create it. For when you create it, then hopefully that pact will remain, because “you need to do it.”

And with our Torah reading for this Shabbat, God’s call to Abram, is stating “this one is for you!”  You Abram, if you want to explore the beauty of what monotheism and our relationship is all about, then it is in your best interest to leave the house that you grew up in, the land that you were born in, and experience what is out there in the world. As the rabbis tell us through the many midrashim, it would be difficult for Abram to have achieved his goals surrounded by his father’s household that was filled with idols. Likewise, as idol worshippers, the leaders in the city-state he grew up in were not only deniers of the truth, but were also evil and dishonest in their dealings, for that was the way of that specific city-state and people.  It was for that reason that Hashem made that request – not for Hashem, but for what was best for Abram in his search for life’s meaning and his set of beliefs.

In some ways, it is in our youth that these challenges take hold.  For example, at the end of our teen years many go to college and leave home to experience and learn about our own expressions and values of life. As we grow and evolve through life, that concept of lekha, has become even more empowering.

In Deuteronomy 4:9, Moses adds an additional instance of the use of the word: hishamer lekha, השמר לך, be on watch and protective for yourself, ושמור נפשך and guard your soul. As the verse goes on to say: “so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live.”

This coming Tuesday, the word “lekha,” takes on that great significance. May we take a moment and ask, not only if what I am being told by others is important, but what is it that I value beyond the rhetoric. What is my lekha, and how do I pesal, carve, my values into a vote that will hopefully make a difference by who is elected.  Hopefully, through our individual vote, we can collectively make that difference locally, for our state and for our county that both Abram and Moses made not only for themselves as individuals, but for everyone whose lives they came in contact with through their individual journeys to the land that God would show Abram.

Shabbat shalom.

Wed, April 24 2024 16 Nisan 5784