Go to Yourself
This Dvar Torah was written by Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, who studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
I think reading the Torah portion Lech Lecha this week is especially difficult.
God promises Abraham and his descendants the land of Israel, inspiring a millennia-long relationship between the land of Israel and the Jewish people that continues to this day.
In the wake of the recent events, I think many of us are questioning what it means to be the bearers of that promise.
I don’t think I will be able answer those questions in the course of this commentary; I also think that there are different and sometimes contradictory answers that may all be right.
Instead, I want to take elements of God’s promise to Abraham and look at the different ways these elements might meet us in our lives right now:
“Lech Lecha - go to yourself.”
Go to who you want to be.
Stay true to yourself and Jewish values.
Turn towards your soul.
“Me’artzecha u’me’moladetecha -from your land and from your homeland.”
Many Israelis have been physically exiled from their homes and many expats are flying back to Israel.
Olim are flying back to the countries they grew up in. Even those of us that are staying put, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora, are feeling a sense of exile.
Something we thought was a home – a safe place, a secure place for us and our families - is revealed as no longer so.
All of us right now, in different levels and in different ways, are mourning the loss of home.
Abraham had to endure a process of displacement and loss of home in order to become Abraham.
We know now, that we are not alone, and we are following our spiritual ancestor’s journey.
“El ha’aretz asher areka - to the land that I will show you.”
Traditionally we say that this is indicating the Land of Israel, but perhaps right now, it is to the land that is being revealed to us: The real Israel that we see when we see people from all walks of life come to help each other in the wake of tragedy.
“Ve’heyei bracha - and you shall be a blessing.”
We need to ask ourselves how we can be a blessing during this time?
What is one small act we can do to increase the good in this universe?
“Venivrichu becha kol mishpechot ha’adama - and all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you.”
At this time, we are focused on support for the Jewish people and rightly so - we have experienced the greatest tragedy in Jewish history since the Holocaust, and need to come together and sustain each other.
And at the same time, we must not lose sight of the fact that our mission as Jews is to also be universalists as well and ask how we can continue to help all of God’s people.
May we know better days ahead - Am Yisrael Chai!