Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
The Torah portion this week begins with the words, “Lech-L’cha,” go forth…to a place that I will show you. These are the words that God commanded Abraham. Commentaries correctly note that the command from God is redundant. “Lech,” which means, “Go!” would have sufficed. “L’cha,” which means, “You,” or “For yourself,” suggests something more, namely, that this was a personal journey and that Abraham would emerge transformed.
This past week, Lisa and I traveled to London, to see our youngest daughter, who’s studying abroad this semester. Emma “went forth” on a journey we only came to understand once we arrived. She told us about the Globe Theatre, the shows she attends with her cohort, and the classes she attends where directors and choreographers of exceptional stature and experience engage them in deep study and interpretation. Her student housing is next door to the British Museum; the neighborhood is brimming with activity and opportunities to feel the rhythm of London. During a ten-day fall break, she also traveled with classmates to Europe, to see places they’ve never been before and without their parents to guide them.
She’s not Abraham, but like him, the place to which she’s going in her future hasn’t been revealed to her, either. Her future awaits her in some unknown place she’s still striving to reach. How will she get there? The Torah portion provides a helpful lesson. God didn’t make the place to which Abraham was going obvious to him. Why not? The rabbis explained that the efforts he personally made to reach his destination made the place more desirable. In a word, he “earned” it. What’s more, the rabbis taught that in each mindful step taken by Abraham, God blessed him there. Though he was told that he would become “as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore,” it was predicated on God’s command to him, “Y’hay B’rachah,” Be a blessing.
We are commanded to “be a blessing,” too. I can’t tell my daughter where to go or how to get there. I can’t tell her what choices she must make at every turn. But, I can tell her to “be a blessing” to herself and to others. And, when she feels prompted by the words, “Lech-L’cha,” (fem: L’chi-lach) go and go for yourself, as she surely will, it will be my prerogative, again, to ask that God might follow her as God followed Abraham, to bless her in each mindful step she takes on her journey.
This week, check your own mindful steps on your respective journey. Confirm that you’re on your way to places you should be. And, remember, even if the way feels long, it will be that much more beloved in your eyes when you arrive. Be a blessing where you are.