Lech Lecha 5779 – Lech Lecha! Are You Ready?

By: Dr. Joel Roffman

You may remember that the phrase lech lecha is one of my favorite expressions in the Torah. I used it when I gave my Kehillahversary talk last spring, speaking of how our members faced a difficult choice when services were terminated at Beit Aryeh. We collectively made a bold decision, and we’ve been rewarded for it.

In today’s parashah, Lech Lecha, Gd tells Abraham to seek a new life in a new land, where his people will ultimately grow in number. Leave your comfort zone, Avram! Be bold. Seek something better. And I, Gd, will be with you. So here I go again.

Lech lecha, James Rosenberg.

On October 2, 2010, James helped establish “Arts & Education 4 DFW Youths.” This is a life-enriching program providing disadvantaged youths the opportunity to experience live performing arts and educational programs at local colleges, and museums. These are coupled with scholastic programs to enhance their knowledge. In 8 years, it has facilitated the attendance of more than 5,500 youngsters at performing arts productions, educational programs, and sports’ venues. A decade or more ago, could James have imagined he would have been involved with such a project? Yet here he is. And still davening on Shabbat. Reading Lech Lecha.

In today’s parashah, Gd tells Abraham, “Lech lecha.” To leave all that was familiar. At first, he wasn’t even told where he would wind up. Personally, I view it as a call to action – imposing a more active role in his life. As we read the parashah today, I view it as a call to us – a challenge.

In a similar vein, we read in Etz Chaim that Gd told Abraham Gd would make him a blessing. I favor a different translation – one that was actually used in the Hertz Bible, where it says, “BE a blessing.” I believe that Gd was challenging Abraham, and now us, to become a blessing to others by leaving our comfort zones and to look for ways to fulfill Judaism’s vision of the world. Well done, James.

Lech lecha, Larry Tobin.

Larry first learned that he had liver disease in 2005, only a few months after moving to Dallas from California. A doctor at Baylor advised him that he had cirrhosis – no alcohol involved in Larry’s case. Larry was told that his liver would last a maximum of five years with there being no cure, and with a low probability of getting a liver transplant. She advised him to enjoy the next several years.

Well, his own liver lasted more than eleven years, and he did indeed subsequently undergo a liver transplant, receiving it in December, 2016. Back in the early 2000s, Larry and Terry couldn’t possibly have foreseen what they would have gone through. Yet Larry maintained courage and good humor through it all. And here he is. Still davening on Shabbat. Reading Lech Lecha. (Truthfully, I’m not sure that the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win in 2016 wasn’t part of some Faustian deal Larry made with Gd. I mean, how improbable was THAT?)

As I spoke about on Rosh Hashanah, and as with other lessons from the Torah, the key question in our parashah today isn’t, “Was Abraham a real person?” but rather, is his story real? Am I living it today? When Gd said to Abraham, “Lech lecha! Go from this place!” That’s our story, isn’t it? We don’t know what’s in store for us; we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow, but that story – our story – our narrative depends largely on us. What we do and how we act. You’re a shining example of grace and courage to all of us, Larry.

Lech lecha, Ron Steiner.

When Ron realized that both his girls would be going off to college in August 2015, and Melissa had taken a job they thought would have her traveling a great deal, he felt he had to do something to keep himself busy, so in mid-2014, he made the decision to enter a PhD program. Can you imagine doing such a thing? To get back into the academic world, study, write, and still maintain a full-time job? You know, Ron is as smart as the next guy, but to go full-bore into this academic pursuit? Hmmm. I know you haven’t finished yet, Ron, but yasher Koach!

It’s hard for us to imagine the future, what it holds in store for us and what we ourselves will be like. Not only can’t we know what it holds, but we can’t imagine how we will react to it. Almost all of our lives’ major events are experienced by us differently than how we would have anticipated. Additionally, we can’t accurately predict how we ourselves will change.

In a recently published psychology study, people were asked how much they anticipated they and their lives would change over the next 10 years. They consistently reported that they felt they would change very little. What they are now is what they will be later.

Now we could look at young adults in their late teens and say to them, “Just you wait. You’ll see. Your life will change very much. And indeed, when people were then looked at in their late 20s, 10 years older, they reported wholesale changes in their behavior and habits. Much more change than they as 18-year-olds would have guessed.

Certainly, we might anticipate this discrepancy when it comes to young adults, but what was so interesting in the study was that the same discrepant results occurred through the whole spectrum of life. So when, for instance, the researchers asked people in their late 50s how much they felt they and their lives would change over the ensuing 10 years, the answer was generally, “Not very much. I’m pretty well cooked. This is how I will be.” But when people in their late 60s were asked how much they and their lives changed in the past 10 years, they reported that things changed a lot. And the discrepancy was similar to what the responses were of those 40 years younger!

Ten years ago, my office was in Richardson, I was 57 years old, and going along smoothly. Listening to Rabbi Glickman each week. For a number of reasons, I decided to leave Richardson, and start a solo practice at the Baylor Plano Heart Hospital. The financial people in my company were strongly against my decision, feeling that my practice would die on the vine. But a year later, I was so busy that I was looking for an associate to join me, and we just added a third doctor. And oh, yes, in the interim, I battled metastatic lymphoma, Beit Aryeh closed on Shabbat, and, well, here I am. In a new practice setting, giving a D’var Torah at Kehillat Chaverim! About Lech Lecha! Who could have guessed?

And finally, lech lecha, Mike Raboy.

Mike was born in 1950 in a Displaced Person camp in Munich, Germany after World War II ended. Through the auspices of a Jewish Federation program, he was brought to San Antonio exactly one month later. And by the way, Mike’s bar mitzvah parashah is . . . Lech Lecha! Can you imagine?

What’s in store for you? Are you ready? Lech Lecha!

Shabbat Shalom.