Parashat Lekh Lekha – Erev Shabbat 30 October 2020
Week of 25-31 October 2020
Torah portion: Genesis 12:1-17:27 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Theme: Leaving Home
In the beginning of this parasha we are first told that Abram’s nephew, Lot, ‘went’ [vai-ye-lech] with him. In the very next verse we read that Abram ‘took’ [vai-yik-kach] Lot, along with Sarai and an uncounted number of nameless dependents. (12:4-5) I noticed this slight discrepancy because of my indignant reaction on reading these verses. Abram alone heard the command Lekh lekha and yet it is not a solitary pilgrimage he embarks upon. He takes a large number of people with him, of whom Lot might have been the only one to have had any say in the matter. My reaction was for reasons that are personal and at the same time universal so I make no apology for sharing them.
Although I live in the city in which I was born, when I was fourteen I moved to another part of Canada to which my father’s career had taken him. Looking back, I am glad to have had the experience, on the whole, but I can remember vividly how hard it was to leave home. (I first learned of the move when I heard my mother protesting against it, which explains my sympathy for Sarai.) Being forced to leave home is the experience of many – too many — people in today’s world, few of them enjoying the middle-class comfort of my life. And in thinking about this, I realized that Abram was not given a choice either: “So Abram went forth as the Eternal had told him.” (12:4) He too found that moving is not only a geographical experience. Leibowitz  quotes the commentary, Haketav Vehakabbala, on the command: “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father’s house “(12:1). Why is it in this order? Surely you must leave the house before leaving the country. The commentary suggests this is: “…a spiritual rather than physical withdrawal, beginning with the periphery and ending with the inner core. The withdrawal from one’s birthplace is not as cruel a wrench as the cutting of one’s connection with one’s family. First, therefore, Abraham was bidden to sever his connections with his country, then his city and finally the most intimate bond, that of home.”
Moving to a different place exacts a price, but it does hold out the promise of becoming a different person. To quote Zornberg : “The imperative of transformation is the driving force of Lekh Lekha. To leave one’s place is ultimately to seek to become other.” We do not necessarily have to travel a great distance if we are searching “to become other.” In her essay “Street Haunting,” Virginia Woolf recommended simply going out for a walk as transformative, as it gets us out of our home where we “sit surrounded by objects which enforce the memories of our own experience.” [quoted in Solnit, 97]
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What has been your experience of moving—to a new country, a new relationship, a new way of life? What was frightening? What was liberating? 2. During the pandemic, our physical movement is restricted. What other ways might we journey?
Bibliography: Leibowtiz, Nehama, New Studies in Bereshit-Genesis (Eliner Library, n.d.); Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb, The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis (New York, 1995); Solnit, Rebecca, “Woolf’s Darkness “ in Men Explain Things to Me (Chicago, 2014).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Anne Morton, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2010