Lech L’cha

G-d said to Avram, “Lech L’cha.” “Go forth. Go from your country, your kindred, your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” And from this moment, Avram’s journey truly begins. “Lech l’cha,” G-d says, a phrase that could be literally translated as “go to yourself.” Avram was 75 years old at the start of this journey – no spring chicken. But he was not too old to begin to find himself, become a father to two sons, become a father to an entire people. All of this happened well past the age when most people have decided what to do with their lives (and before you tell me that age means something different in the Torah, which it does, the Torah does not view Avram as a young man in this story.) Avram literally had a calling. It’s a rare thing, how many people do you know who can honestly say that their life’s path is a calling?

I officiated at a funeral this afternoon. After the ceremony was over, I had a discussion with the apprentice funeral director. I asked her what made her go into this line of work. I expected her to tell me that it was a family business, but instead, with a fire in her eyes, she described this as a calling that she had felt from a young age, but had ignored. She studied to be a speech therapist instead. But this is what she really wanted to do.

When we are children, everyone asks, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But very few children actually follow these plans. If I had, I would be a rare-hybrid “teacher-doggie.” By the time we graduate college, we are supposed to know. We are supposed to now be grown-ups. It’s amazing how many adults I talk to who tell me that they are just kids trapped in big-people bodies. As adults we are supposed to stop thinking about what we want to be, what we can be. We become defined by our career. I am a doctor. I am a lawyer. I am a cantor. We all know that these things do not need to limit us.

At 75 Avram begins his journey to himself. In the process, he becomes transformed. He becomes a person who is willing to bargain with G-d over the fate of Sodom and Gemorrah. His identity evolves and changes. At the age of 90, a piece of G-d’s name gets appended to his own and he becomes Avraham. All it took was a moment of opening his mind to the possibilities.

G-d’s name yud-hey-vav-hey is unpronounceable because it is breath and being. It is a word made up of the only Hebrew consonants that are also vowels. It is also the verb to be in the past, present, and future tenses with a masculine future prefix and a feminine past suffix – The verb to be in masculine and feminine, present, past and future. The hey in G-d’s name makes an “h” sound, the sound of breath. It is this hey that gets added to Avram’s name – a small touch of the breath of G-d, a little wind at his back to move him forward into this new self – this new way to BE.

Sometimes I think that we forget that life is about continually becoming. The moment we stop dreaming about what we want to be when we grow up, we limit what our journey can be. So, this Shabbat, I invite you to reopen your child-like heart and dream. Your journey is just beginning. Who do you want to be?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Beth on October 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    I know I am still becoming. Thanks for the affirmation! A beautiful post.

    Reply

  2. Love this, we all need a little wind on our back. Having grown up sailing in Narragansett Bay, I always remember that the wind directed the sail, that the buoy always sang our current direction but that we never truly lost perspective. And spiritually as Cantor Neff says, Lech L’cha.” “Go forth. Go from your country, your kindred, your father’s house to the land that I will show you” is a command like a compass, the cry of the passion pulling us forward to live the right life, to do the right thing. We all know what “Go Forth” means, it is just a matter of giving up any ghosts we may have, and letting that inner voice resonate what we know is true.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Cindy Kalish on October 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Thank You Sally! I am preparing for my 4th grade class tomorrow and your blog just popped up. I am printing and and planning to use this as a discussion tomorrow!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Robert Bachman on October 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Love the way you speak from the heart and make it all so understsndable.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Reply

  5. Posted by Richard on October 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you — close to the p’shat, inspiring, and true, and also relevant for my own life. (And by the way, though this is not the main point, one of your all-time best.)

    Reply

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