“The Eternal said to Avram, “Leave your land, that which birthed you, and your paternal home and go to the land that I will show you.”” (Genesis 12:1)
Lekh-Lekha is one of my favorite portions in the annual Torah cycle. The word lekh means to “go” or “walk.” Lekh-Lekha essentially means “walk to yourself” or “go to yourself.” The Eternal has called on Avram to take a journey of self-discovery through the wilderness to a land that will be revealed.
In the calling itself, The Eternal gives a recipe for a transformative experience that will not only liberate Avram from his past, but strengthen him to discover who he is and will even culminate with receiving a new name.
There are three things which Avram is told he must leave: artzekha, “your land”; moladetekha, “your birth”; and beit avikha, “your parental home.”
- Your Land
What does it mean to leave one’s land? I believe this refers to the physical aspect of literally leaving. In order to truly transform, Avram is told he must release the physical comforts of his life.
- Your Birth
This one is very interesting, because the Hebrew is sometimes translated as “your birth/birthplace” or “kindred” or the like. And in some English translations, it isn’t translated at all. I believe this is a mistake, because it might be the most important of the three. This is the spiritual aspect of leaving. The Eternal is saying that Avram must leave the circumstances of his birth, to be no longer at the mercy of what society expects of him!
- Your Paternal Home
Here, I believe, is the emotional aspect of leaving. Avram must leave behind the teachings of his parents, the comfort of their home and lifestyle, and their worldview. Their worldview is of and for them, it no longer applies to Avram. He can honor them without allowing their worldview to hold him back from leaving to who he can become.
- Finally, Avram is told he’ll be going to a land that will be revealed to him, but right now, he hasn’t a clue where he’s going. He has to take a leap of faith and trust that this transformation will lead him to a better place – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. And he does.
Like Avram, we are each called to leave the comforts of what surrounds us and trust that the journey will transform us into better people. Avram’s sojourn led him to meet people different from him and allowed him to open his tent to complete strangers in hospitality and love (something I’d like to explore in next week’s post). And by the end, The Eternal gives him a trail name: Avraham – the father of nations.
Our world may seem like it is getting scarier and, as one friend reminded me today, once fear sets in, it is hard to shake. Perhaps it’s time we accepted The Eternal’s call to “walk to ourselves.” In other words, to be our truest selves. Perhaps in doing so, we can release our fears and be more open to those different from us – with their own unique cultures and their own unique heritages.
Don’t allow anyone but yourself to define who you are in this world and, in kind, let’s show others that we love them for who they are, too. Courage, my friend, you do not walk alone. I’m looking forward to seeing you on the journey.