The Torah portion leads us to the journey of Abraham as he answers God’s call to “Go forth” (lekh l’kha which literally means “betake yourself.”). His response has been called a “journey of faith,” one that can inspire us in our own faith and practice today.
God’s call to “go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1) has a “go from” and “go to” instructions. The command to “go from” is clear. Conroy (2003) said it goes from the more general to the more particular: Leave your country, leave your clan, leave your family. It is like a concentric command to leave everything according to Zornberg (2018). But the “go to” command is vague. God is not telling Abraham where he is going. He is to go to a land he does not know, go to the unknown and to travel blindly.
It is a difficult command but it brings with it a lot of promises. The implied promise is God will be him till he reaches his destination. And the explicit promises are: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you…” (vv. 2-3). With the word bless or blessing repeated a number of times, Abraham is to be a bearer of blessings to himself, to his family and others.
Abraham’s quick response to go is very short. (v. 4). Without questions, without thinking? Abraham was not like an unthinking robot. Conroy said that Abraham has “an interior journey of faith.” Zornberg cited Rashi who says Abraham is constantly going from makom (place) to makom, asking is this my place? He is like in a situation of bewilderment, of not yet knowing. This she says is Abraham’s “go for yourself” journey. He is to grapple his questions to include those that need pragmatic solutions, like: how he is to find himself in the world with complicated life problems like that of famine, going to Egypt, his wife-sister problem and fighting kings.
Abraham is also to “go into yourself” and “go with yourself.” Abraham has to find answers to questions on the essence of his life, his experience with God and his sins which Zornberg said, citing a midrash is like a “dew that can evaporate” or “a perfume unconsciously diffused.”
Agitated, stirred but with hopes, Abraham walks into the unknown. His interior “go” journeys have been transformative. Zornberg said, he has transformed from an object (like someone to be blessed) to a subject (someone who can bless). He has become someone charismatic such that whom he blesses will be blessed and whom he will curse, will be cursed. Not by magic but through a transformative process, Abraham has become a blessing.
Today, Abraham is considered by Christians as a man who had confident faith when hope seemed to be hopeless (Rom. 4:8). He is considered the father of peoples who believe in one God to include Jews, Christians and Muslims. May all his believing children go into interior journeys – to go for yourself, go into yourself, and go with yourself, to transform themselves into blessings for others and for peace.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What do you consider to be your greatest journey of faith so far? 2. What has been your greatest learning from the journey of Abraham?
Bibliography: Conroy, Journeys and Servants (Philippines, 2003), ETZ Hayim: Torah and Commentary (New York, 2001) Zornberg, Genesis, Parshat Lech Lecha in https://www.bac.org.il/videos/?videoID=8704 downloaded on October 23, 2023
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat kol Alumna July 2024, 2023