Levi Meyer - Dvar Torah
My Torah portion is called Lech Lecha. It is found in the book of Genesis. My portion is a very interesting and dramatic story. The parsha begins with G-d's renowned call to Abraham (although at this stage of the parsha, he is still referred to as Abram). G-d said to him: "Lech lecha! Go! Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, from your father's house, to the land that I will show you". G-d also promises Abraham that he will make him into a great nation.
Abraham, who is seventy-five years old, follows G-d’s instruction and takes his wife, Sarah (who is referred to as Sarai) as well as his nephew, Lot, and the other household members. When they arrive in Canaan, Abram builds an altar to G-d. However, their journey is not easy and famine arises and forces them all to travel to Egypt in search of food.
Sarah is beautiful and Abraham introduces her as his sister and not his wife. By doing this, he escapes death because they present themselves as brother and sister so that Pharaoh would not kill him in order to take Sarah as his own wife. Pharoah rewards Abram very generously. Yet Pharoah realises something is wrong when his household suffers a plague and he returns Sarah to Abraham.
They return to the land of Canaan and Abraham and Lot then go their separate ways as there is not enough land and crops for both of their flocks. Abraham asks Lot which direction he wants to go and Lot goes to the east, to Sodom, and Abraham to the west. Lot is taken captive in a war between local kings. Abraham hears the news and sets out, with armed men, to rescue his nephew Lot.
G-d appears to Abraham, and promises that he will have a biological heir and that his descendants will be as many as the stars. In what is known as the Brit Bein HaBetarim (the "Covenant of the Parts"), G-d informs that Abraham's descendants will one day experience exile and persecution in a foreign land, before finally returning to Canaan.
However, ten years later, Sarah is still childless and so she asks Abraham to marry her maidservant Hagar. Hagar conceives and Sarah becomes furious when she detects that her maidservant is looking down upon her. So Sarah treats her harshly and Hagar flees, but later returns when an angel of G-d appears to her. Soon after that she gives birth to Ishmael, Abraham's first biological child when Abraham is eighty six years old.
Finally, G-d appears to Abram again, changes his name to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, and promises him that he will have many descendants and that they will inherit the land of Canaan. Abraham is commanded to circumcise himself and all male members of his household and that his descendants must do the same.
One of the themes in this parsha is about the covenant between G-d and Abraham. A covenant is a spiritual agreement or promise between two people. In Lech Lecha, circumcision is a sign of the covenant between G-d and Abraham. This concept of a covenant has been particularly interesting to me. Like Abraham went on a journey of discovery, I too began a journey. By starting a process of studying for my bar mitzvah a year ago and by leading this service today, I have become a Jewish adult and am continuing the covenant that my parents gave me of being Jewish, as one of Abraham’s descendents.
Abraham is portrayed in my parsha as having different personality traits. On one hand, we see him as a peacemaker, when he makes the decision to offer Lot the first choice of which direction he wanted to go, when the Land was not enough for both of them. Yet, later on we see him as a hero and a warrior, jumping on his horse, to go and save Lot from being attacked by the four kings. Reflecting on this, I feel that I have similar qualities. Whenever someone amongst my peers is made fun of or fought with, either at school or on Whatsapp groups, I will stand up and try to end this conflict and to help make peace and resolve the issue. I think it’s also important to speak up when there are wrongdoings and to try to help others reflect on their actions and make sensible and kind decisions.
The opening line of my parsha caught my eye particularly. Lech Lecha - what does this actually mean? It literally means “Go-You-Forth”, but it is open to many interpretations. I like the idea of it being a spiritual quest and I like to interpret this to mean, to go and find who you truly are and to find your true purpose in life. Abraham was challenged to start a journey without knowing his final destination. In life, I think you often start a journey of the unknown and because of fear some people never start the journey and never pursue their dreams. I hope to be like Abraham and to find the courage and belief in G-d to take chances and risks, to pursue the unknown and to find meaning in my life.
In researching for this Dvar, I read that Lech lecha has also been translated as Go Forth and Go Out which is a call to go out of or beyond ourselves. This implies that ‘the other’ comes before ‘the self’. I thought this was particularly meaningful, as I believe I have a responsibility to others. In a world of social media, Instagram and Facebook, driven by people's need to show off their lives and possessions, let this call of Lech Lecha, be a reminder that we are here to think of not only ourselves, but the needs of others and how we can make a difference in the lives of others.
I would like to say a big thank you firstly to my parents for raising me with care and love and teaching me the concept of mitzvot and caring for others. Thank you to Rachael for your patient and supportive help as my bar mitzvah teacher and to Rabbi Greg for your insight and guidance and to all of you who are on Zoom and with me here today.