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“One of the greatest religious problems is that people fear having a relationship with God and consequently distance themselves from Him.”
Sfat Emet (Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter, 1847 – 1905, who is known by this major writing).
In Genesis (B’reisheet, 12:1) God says to Abraham “Lech-Lecha” (לֶךְ־לְךָ֛), which is most often translated as “Go forth”. Technically however, the Hebrew meaning is different and contains layers of meanings that help us understand Judaism on a deeper level.
Abraham, as the first Jew, is the one who recognizes that there is the One great unifying force in the universe. He is told to leave everything he has known for a place that he knows nothing about.
The root word for Lech (לֶךְ) is where the word Halacha is derived, simply translated as “law” as in following or keeping Halacha, but in its essence it more accurately means ‘walking the walk’. Behaving as we need to.
So, on a basic level, Abraham is also told to walk, to continue on. To know that he is doing the right thing.
When I was growing up, I often heard the term ‘wandering’ Jew, which was often used to describe the history of the Jewish people. This notion could not be more wrong. We haven’t wandered…beginning with Abraham and continuing with our leaving Egypt, we journey toward a destination. There is no mystery about what is leading us to go where we need to go. We are journeying toward wholeness, a state of completeness. This is a lifetime effort and only those who haven’t bothered to know their true calling are wandering.
The spiritual Hebrew meaning
Abraham’s journey will take him inward, the meaning of “Lech Lecha”..to go into yourself. Like Abraham, in order to make a substantial change in your life, you must leave the place you’ve been, turn inward to your inner voice, and then head out for an entirely new territory.
Doing so will allow you to be directed inwardly, but at the same time will allow you to be open to a higher Guide.
From your land
The very next words after Lech Lecha is mei’artzecha (מֵאַרְצְךָ֥) Abraham is to leave his land (artzecha, ארצך), which the commentator Abarbanel (1437 – 1508) says is one of the mitzvot that was commanded from the verse “Go forth from your land…”meaning that one’s soul leaves material things in order to fully realize the soul’s potential.
Artzecha (ארצך) is related to the word artziut…spiritually meaning your earthiness, your ties toward the material and mundane, your inclination to be rooted in the tangible.
May this Torah portion inspire you to seek your true path, to find wholeness….and to welcome HaShem as your Guide.