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

“I will establish my covenant between me and you
and I will make you exceedingly numerous.” (Genesis 17:2)

Parashat Lekh Lekha opens a new era in history. God recognizes partnering with all of humanity (through Noah) to steward the world has failed. God tries a new strategy: electing one family (which will grow into a people) instead. So God tells Abram (soon to be renamed Abraham) to leave behind everything he’s ever known to travel a different road to a different place (Gen. 11:1). And Abram does. Does this mean God is retreating from the world and abandoning humanity? Not at all.

God’s call to Abram continues, “I will make of 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 him that curses you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Gen 11:2-3) The Tsena-Rene (~1590s; a Yiddish anthology of rabbinic interpretations of the weekly parasha, or portion, written for women) interprets these verses as a progression over time. First, God alone blesses Abram. Then those who believe in Abram’s mission bless him (…those who bless you). Finally, the whole world will bless him (…all the families of the earth). This progression parallels that of Psalm 150 (the Ashrei prayer), which describes how first the individual reader, then the true believers, and then the entire world will bless and praise God.

The message is subtle, but clear. God’s goal remains constant: a world of tzedakah and mishpat, a world of justice and order. Lekh Lekha describes a shift in strategy: Abram (and the Jewish people) are both God’s symbol and God’s instrument.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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