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

“For I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever. “ (Genesis 13:15)

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again” describes God’s situation this week. The ideal of the Garden of Eden is a bust and the plan to partner with all humanity ends in failure, too. Still, God is not deterred and Parashat Lech L’cha introduces a new idea: partnering with one people to steward the world. God chooses Abram (soon to be renamed Abraham) and tells him “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 11:1). The Torah doesn’t say why God chooses Abram and doesn’t explain why he has to leave home to do God’s work. The job description, “…And you shall be a blessing.” (Gen. 11:2) isn’t too clear, either.

Now, a bracha, or blessing, is a formula recited before specific activities or at certain times. Saying a bracha acknowledges the extraordinary nature of the ordinary details of daily life. Many Jews try to recite at least 100 brachot (plural of bracha) each day. So how does one become a bracha, and what does that even mean?

Since the Torah doesn’t give a reason why God chooses Abram, we can infer being a bracha isn’t about any inherent quality he possesses. So, being a bracha isn’t about us in the abstract; being a bracha is about the concrete things we do. The reason for being a bracha is the same as for saying a bracha: to help others recognize the magnitude of the smallest details of daily life. And that’s why Abram must leave home to be a bracha: the essence of being Jewish is going out into the world to make it better.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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