By Rabbi Jennifer Weiner
This week’s Torah portion is Lech Lecha, Genesis 12:1 — 17:27.
Lech Lecha means “to get up and go to yourself.” The idea that Avram followed God blindly because God said so is rather curious. Who in their right mind would hear a voice and think, “I am going to leave everything that I know behind me and go someplace that has not been revealed?”
It is simplistic to think that there is no deeper message behind the words. Perhaps in our time we are too cynical or biased and unprepared to simply accept on faith that we do not need all answers before beginning a new task or journey. Maybe we can learn, like Avram and Sarai, to trust that inner voice that we hear as our guide and to follow it on a spiritual journey.
Yet, in Lech Lecha, God tells Avram to leave the place where he has lived his entire life. Avram and Sarai pack up their household and go to a place that God will show them. Some commentators, including Rashi, state that Avram had to flee in order to be safe. But, according to a Chasidic master, Avram was not fleeing from something but journeying toward greatness.
In the Hebrew, there is a reflexive state to the title of this portion. God tells Avram to get up and go forth. But what if God did not mean for Avram to go on a physical journey but rather a spiritual one? Like Avram and Sarai, many of us during our lifetimes have “gotten up and gone to ourselves,” not just on a physical journey but also on one of introspection and personal growth. In doing so, we have encompassed the real lesson of this Torah portion.
I have been able to join congregants and community members as we make that spiritual journey together. As a Jewish community, we navigated high holidays online for two years.
While embarking on this journey was not easy, it has been rewarding. Our community’s journey required struggling with who we are and who we wish to become. There will be spiritual and emotional highs and lows as we continue to navigate the epidemic of COVID-19. At times, we may lose sight of the why and where of our journey for inclusion and engagement with each other. Yet, in the end, we are stronger. COVID has taken a toll on our community being together in person, yet has led us to exploring what Judaism and Torah truly mean to us as individuals and as a global community.
Rabbi Jennifer Weiner is the rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Frederick.