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Josh Katz - Dvar Torah

Dear Congregation

The name of my Parshah, "Lech Lecha," means "Go Forth" and it is found in Genesis chapter 12. G-d speaks to Avram, commanding him to go from his land to a place which he will direct him to. These words are powerful and have significance in the history of the human race. Not only did Abraham create Judaism. He was also the inspiration of two other religions, Christianity and Islam.

‘Lech Lecha‘ means: Leave behind all that is predictable, unfree, a need to blame others and avoiding responsibility. It also means being prepared to take an often lonely journey: “Go by yourself.” It is that courage to travel alone if necessary, to be different, refusing to just accept what is and have the courage to swim against the tide. The broader theme of independent thinking and the courage to speak out have relevance to me. I believe that we shouldn’t simply accept, we should challenge convention and make a difference. I have grown up in a family in which we all have a voice and are encouraged to offer our own point of view. We support one another and are not afraid to step out and create our own path. I draw my inspiration from others who do extraordinary things, like sports people who combine their talent with hard work and achieve great things. Novak Djokovic is a prime example of someone who has dedicated himself to a goal and achieved it by being mentally superior – he has self-belief that very few possess. At 21:00 tonight the Boks play their old foes, the All Blacks. They have made it through to the final of the Rugby World Cup against all odds beating the French when the game seemed lost and then a week later when England had all but secured the victory, the Springboks dug deep and never stopped believing. Closer to home my Dad is living proof that hard work trumps talent and has the courage of his convictions. My Mom has an inner strength and resolve, second to none. Those are qualities which saved her life earlier this year. There was no data to support her survival nor recovery yet she is here by my side, healthy and beautiful, as I reach this milestone.

As we reflect on the qualities of Abraham, the Torah is understated in its account of him. Abraham does not fit the conventional image of the religious hero. He is not, like Noah, the sole survivor of a world approaching destruction. He is not, like Moses, a law-giver and liberator. Abraham is a man of values and virtue. He welcomes strangers and gives them food. He fights a battle on behalf of the cities of the plain in order to rescue his nephew, Lot. He patiently waits for a child and then, when the command comes, is willing to offer him as a sacrifice, only to discover that the G-d of truth does not want us to sacrifice our children but to cherish them. But if asked to characterise him with adjectives, the words that spring to mind are gentle, kind, gracious, not words usually associated with the founder of a new faith. They are the kind of attributes to which any of us could aspire. None of us can be an Abraham, but all of us can take him as a role model. Perhaps that is the deepest lesson of all.

I would like to share with you another explanation of the word lecha which conveys a message from G-d to Abraham. It is something which is not easily reached, and it takes the work of a lifetime to achieve. When a child is born, it has unlimited capabilities and immense potential. The fulfilment of one’s potential varies in each individual. There are even instances, when, unfortunately, one’s abilities remain dormant and sadly, one’s potential is wasted. Every person is created with a mould that only they can fill. With hard work and diligence every person can fulfil the role created specifically for them. Challenges and hurdles are not imposed for punishment, but rather to help us reach that potential. Every challenge that is overcome brings the person a step closer to reaching what only they alone can attain. G-ds challenge to Avraham was “lech”-“go” and “lecha” “to you” or “to yourself”, that is to reach and develop the real you, become yourself to the fullest measure of your potential. It all depends on you making the move. You must exert the effort and face the calling and challenge. Lecha, therefore does not mean “for yourself” rather “to yourself” to reveal and achieve the real you. I would like to close by thanking my family for being so supportive and loving towards me. I am blessed with a strong foundation and a family who believe in me.

Thank-you everyone for listening.

Shabbat shalom


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