Lech Lecha - 5780
“The LORD said to Avram, “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” -Genesis 12:1
In my confirmation class this week, one of my students asked, “Why doesn’t God speak to people anymore like God did in the Bible?” I asked the student what made him think God no longer speaks to people. We discussed how most people don’t go around saying that they hear voices speaking to them—say that and you may be told you need to see a therapist…. But I suggested that perhaps we do hear God-the quiet still voice within us, the voice of conscience, that inner voice that helps us decipher right from wrong. We just don’t often talk about it or even acknowledge it.
Have you had moments where you have heard God’s voice?
This week we meet the father of Judaism, our first Patriarch, Abraham who at this time is only called Avram. Avram is called by God “Lecha Lecha—go forth, for you.” Medieval commentator Rashi, translates this to mean—Go for your own sake. According to following verses of Torah, there is incentive for Avram to follow God’s directive.
“I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you” (v.2-3)
Of all the people in the world, why was Avram the one that was chosen? In last week’s Torah portion, Noah was singled out for being “righteous in his generation”. But prior to this story, we know little about Avram. And there are no descriptive words declaring him as righteous. All we know is that God called out Lecha, and Avram answered, “Hineni-I am here.” In the Sfat Emet, a book of Hasidic commentary on the Torah, an explanation is offered.
According to the Sfat Emet, God said Lech Lecha to all humanity, but it was only Abraham that heard it! Everyone was given the opportunity to make a covenant with God—to follow God’s path in exchange for being blessed and being as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand in the sea-but it was only Abraham who was able to hear the call. In the same way that Moses was attentive and noticed the burning bush, Abraham was able to hear the call.
What if each of us could be an Abraham? Is the Universe giving us signs in which we turn a blind eye or deaf ear? How can we be leaders like Abraham, and go against conformity? Do we follow our own inner voice rather than following the crowd?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, “To be a Jew is to be willing to challenge the prevailing consensus.” He continues, “One reason that Jews have become, out of all proportion to their number, leaders in almost every sphere of human endeavor is precisely their willingness to be different. Throughout the centuries Jews have been the most striking example of a group that refused to assimilate to the dominant culture or to convert to the dominant faith.”
Can we embrace our inner Abraham, our inner non-conformist? Can we learn to be attentive and read the signs all around us? Can we quiet our minds, eliminate distractions, and be present enough to hear God’s voice calling to each of us Lech Lecha?