Lech Lecha

"And God said to Abram: ‘Go, out of your country’” Genesis: 12:1


Lech Lecha follows the journeying of Abraham and Sarah, specifically their discovery of monotheism and their attempt to spread it. They are, it seems, told to find themselves, away from the confines of their upbringing. Ironically, this journey is a forced exile, rather than a jubilant or self-initiated one.

The contemporary biblical commentator Avivah Zornberg suggests that, “for the first time a journey is undertaken not as an act of exile or diminution, but as a response to a divine imperative that articulates and emphasises displacement as its crucial experience. For what is most striking here is the indeterminacy of the journey.” And how true is this indeterminacy when one is hoping to have children, or engaged in bringing up one’s children or letting them go — the ongoing negotiation which permeates the lives of both Abraham and Sarah.

Our struggle as human beings is never so much with the knowable present, but with the unknowable future; that inevitable wrestling between fear and excitement of how our personal journey might unfold. This discovery of ourselves — lech lecha mean literally “go, to yourself” — is the beginning, then, of the wonder of finding God.

Life’s journey is by definition exploratory — we excel and we meet failure. But, according to Zornberg, that is the point; the journeying is what makes us creative and flourish as human beings. Fittingly, Abraham and Sarah leave us intimations on how to make our journey better, to make it a good journey: perform and generate kindness. We, like them, must imitate God in order to reach and know God.

Poet Rabbi David Ebner captures the Lech Lecha moment magnificently, describing Abraham as “the first wonderer rewarded with wandering”. Let us attempt to rejoice in that which is uncertain, and take pleasure in that which is unanticipated — it may be the very making of us.

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