Blog Lech Lecha Cheshvan 11th 5779 בלוג לֶךְ-לְךָ, י”א חשון תשע”ט
Avram Avinu received a call from the Bore Olam to leave everything he knew behind and to follow Him. We know very little about Avram except that he did leave and took his wife, his nephew Lot and those of his servants who wanted to follow. Abram didn’t know where he was going but he obeyed. When Abram left, he was a very rich man, so he didn’t leave because he was promised fame and fortune; he left because he simply believed the Bore Olam. He was obedient. The Torah said that Abram left his home with a group of “souls” people that he “made” meaning that he taught them about the One and only God and they followed him because they accepted his teaching. When Abram reached Canaan, he was not welcomed with open arms by the people who lived in the land. Were they expected to invite him in to take over this land? The text says that he would not take over the land until the people who dwelled there had reached the pinnacle of their debauchery. It was the Bore Olam who wanted these people out of His Promised Land!
We do not know what Abram believed about his journey, but in that moment, it was as if he were reborn. He would leave everything he knew to start again. How many of us have taken that same step of faith because we could no longer remain where we were? We knew there was something wrong and we had to head off in a new direction. We were literally “inspired” to a higher calling. We were swimming against the current. I recently read a saying that I think is applicable here, “A dead fish goes with the current, while a living fish swims against the current.” When we go against the current, it takes a lot of energy and courage. Most people tend to follow the latest trends because they are “dead fish” who have lost both their individuality and their ability to choose for themselves.
Last week I spoke to you about “fake news” and here, this portion Lech Lecha continues on that same track. Let’s examine the simple text of the Torah for what it says, not by what others say it says! The Creator told Abram that he would be the father of many nations and that all those who bless him would be blessed and all those who curse him would be cursed, and that all the families of the earth would be blessed because of him. Although our sages say that this marks the beginning of the Chosen People of Israel, Abram is not only the father of Israel; he is also the spiritual father of over 3 billion people including 13 million Jews, 2.5 million Christians and 1.7 billion Moslems. The message here is that all the nations of the earth would be blessed by the seed of Abram.
The Creator made pacts with Abram and he becomes Abraham (Ber. 17:5) -ה וְלֹא-יִקָּרֵא עוֹד אֶת-שִׁמְךָ, אַבְרָם; וְהָיָה שִׁמְךָ אַבְרָהָם, כִּי אַב-הֲמוֹן גּוֹיִם נְתַתִּיךָ. – 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. The first was that he would be the father of many nations and the second was the covenant of the brit milah – מילה ברית, circumcision. This was a covenant between Him and the ones He chose. Not everyone responded to this call but refused to be circumcised. This was to be a special mark to separate His “chosen” people. Circumcision was already practiced among many nations at that time, but this would be a particular sign of obedience for those chose and were committed to follow the God of Israel. All those who travelled with Abram and who wanted to, were circumcised. Notice that Lot was not circumcised; he had already left for Sodom. The Torah says that those who were not circumcised would be “karet”– cut off from the people of Israel. This has nothing to do” with being saved or with being superior in any way.
Those of us who are “called” are to be servants, not to be served. Isaiah 41:8-9 But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham who I love, whom I have taken to myself, from the remotest parts of the earth and summoned from countries far away, to whom I have said, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you, I have not rejected you,” We were called or chosen to make things better for the world. It is a position of responsibility not of honor. When the Creator calls us, we know that He has called us. Our lives change like Abraham’s did.
To those whom the Creator calls, He gives “vision” as He inspires us. Are you looking to be popular, to be rich, to have power or are you willing to be the best in whatever area He has placed you? When Abram left the land of idolaters and spread the news that there is only One God, do you think that everyone dropped their gods and ran after him? He fought against all the odds. It is the same for us. We belong to a movement that is a minority because we choose not to follow people, but to follow the Creator. Most religions put words in the mouth of the Creator, however we need to be humble and willing to listen to what the Torah actually says and not what others tell us it says. We need to fight the environment in which family and friends do not allow us to grow or be different but when our hearts are right with the Creator, no one or nothing can stop us. We however, will go against the flow. Jeremiah said, “cursed be the man who trusts (follows) man and blessed be the man who trusts in (follows) the Creator”. I ask you…”Are you a dead fish or a live fish?”