Parashat Lech L’cha: Thank You to the Following Kehillah Members

By: Dr. Joel Roffman

Lech L’cha is one of my favorite parashiot in the Torah. In it, 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! Leave all that is familiar. Be bold. Seek something better. And I, Gd, will be with you. At first, Abraham wasn’t even told where he would wind up. “There’s a challenge that awaits you, Avram, and if you can muster up the courage to answer the call, your life will be more meaningful and fulfilling.”

Lech L’cha – Go from this place. A message not only for Abraham, but for all of us. Leave your comfortable surroundings. Have I got a challenge for you!

OK, so I envision Abraham as living the good life in the land of Ur. Making a good living. Discussing the issues of the day with his cronies. Maybe even inheriting his father’s idol-making business. Who knows? And he is somehow motivated – Divinely motivated perhaps? – to get out of his comfort zone. To acknowledge that he is not all that he can become. We read that Abraham’s life (and, incidentally, the life of anyone who answers the call), was not made easier by his answering the call. For Abraham, tough times ensued, as you will read in today’s portion.

For me personally, I always have looked upon the phrase as a calling to be bold. Get out of your comfort zone. Get moving. Time’s a-wasting. Look at the biographies of famous or of simply successful people, and you often find a singular moment in which they heard the command, lech l’cha. And to make it a bit less cosmic: maybe you heard the expression, “Fortune favors the bold.”  My view is that our lives take on more meaning when we in fact take this as a command. As a challenge, as a call to action, rather than as a promise of success.

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 older Hertz Bible, where it says, “Be thou 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.

Yasher Koach Bill Sutker, and Stephanie and Mark Kessler who became docents at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. Bill tells me that this has been a special interest of his since a “March of the Living” trip he took with Helen in 2018. Stephanie and Mark told me that, “We love communicating to students and other visitors the message that we should do all do that we can to combat prejudice, hatred, and indifference. We can think of no better way to spend our time.” As I’m sure you all realize, becoming docents as Bill, Stephanie and Mark have done is not simply a “fill out the application” process. It takes many hours of study and in-person training. They heard the call, “Lech L’cha.”

In the parashah, we read that Gd tells Abraham Gd will make Abraham’s descendants “as numerous as the stars in the heavens.” I feel that our lives are much more enriched when we take this as a challenge. It’s largely up to us to fulfill Gd’s promise, to make Abraham’s descendants – us – carry on our unique and treasured traditions.
Well . . . here we all are. Descendants of Abraham. Not quite as numerous as the stars in the heavens, but time isn’t finished yet.

When we combine the two simple phrases – Go forth. Be a blessing to others. Now we’re getting to a yet different place. Being both bold and a blessing to others can be considered the Jewish perfecta!!

Yasher Koach to Jill Bach. Having recovered from ovarian cancer, Jill took these exhortations to a new level. For 11 years, she has been a leader and an organizer for the “Be the Difference” benefit to help raise funds for ovarian cancer research and patient support. This has been a lot of work, but as Jill said, “When you have a passion for something you don’t mind the work as much.” You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Jill and hundreds of other supporters shvitzing during the actual event!

As I spoke about on in a prior D’var Torah, 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 l’cha – 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—upon what we do and how we act.

Yasher Koach to Becca and Guy Bradley, who have given more hours than they have available to their sons and to others in the Boy Scouts. You can well imagine what a cost in time and energy it is to prepare meetings, supervise boys at campouts and of course, being a role model. Guy was involved with scouting even as a kid and knew how special it would be for his sons. Becca found a need and in the best Jewish tradition simply said, “Hineni” – here I am. And here she still is, finding satisfaction and serving a community.

In opposition to the materialism that drives so many today, the devotion and energy that these kehillah members have put into these volunteer activities mean that they will be known best not by what they acquired, but by what they gave.

Lech L’cha for the Jew means hearing and responding to the still, small voice of eternity. We are summoned to contribute to the world. That still, small voice is pulling us, pushing us, to continue the journey begun by Abraham.

Fulfilling the commandment to “lech l’cha” takes conviction and a sense of mission. It takes much courage to leave one’s comfort zone and work to improve the lives of others. Being a blessing to others and to the world writ large is what we Jews do and what these kehillah members are doing.