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Parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

“Now Abram was very laden with livestock, silver, and gold.” (Genesis 13:2)

In Parashat Lekh Lekha God plucks Abram from obscurity and commands him to“…Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1) This is a physical journey; Abram must travel from Haran, a specific place he knows, toward another place he doesn’t. Abram will need travelling gear: tents, waterskins, etc. He will also need something intangible: faith.

Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) interprets lekh lekha to mean go for yourself, implying the trip is for Abram’s own enjoyment and benefit. Again, this could refer to material gain. But lekh lekha can also mean go toward yourself, which makes the journey an internal and spiritual quest, rather than an external and physical trek. The implication is Abram must first “find himself” before he can find God. This reading makes sense, given Abram is the only person in the Jewish Bible to be commanded lekh lekha; the Jewish journey can begin only with a person of faith and insight.

Lekh Lekha isn’t only about inner or outer journeys, though. The words lekh lekha are the guides for how much space to leave between lines in a written document (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 163a). This is because the Hebrew letter lamed extends the farthest up, while the Hebrew letter chaf sofit extends the farthest down. Any journey is a liminal space between the beginning and the end; while on the journey you are neither here nor there. And any journey, spiritual or physical, will include ups and downs. How you respond is the journey.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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