Yom Rishon, 16 AdarI 5781
Sunday, 28 February 2021
Parshat Lech L'cha 2012

Parashat Lech L'cha by Rabbi Pete Tobias
26th October 2012

‘Lech l’cha!’ Get out!

This is God’s instruction to Abram and Sarai, the title of this week’s Torah portion, and the name by which the week is traditionally known. These are the words which effectively launched the story of the Jewish people. Abraham and Sarai, living in ancient Mesopotamia among idol worshippers (according to the·Midrash, Abraham’s father Terach was a maker of idols) heard the call of the one God, telling them to leave their home and begin their journey. They were asked to leave behind the familiar and enter the unknown, a journey of (self-)discovery and revelation, from a world of idol worship to one that Claude Montefiore would describe as ‘the purest monotheism’, from obscurity to renown as the founding ancestors of what would one day become the Jewish people.

How often have those words been heard by their descendants, in countless places in different times through the millennia that have passed since first they were uttered at the start of chapter 12 of the book of Genesis! Whispered urgently by Rebekah to her son Jacob as she recognised the fury of his deceived twin brother, yelled at Moses by a devastated Pharaoh clutching his dead firstborn son, perceived by Elijah in the still small voice that stirred him to return from a desert cave to confront the injustice of Ahab and Jezebel. Words of command also delivered from hostile individuals bearing weapons, ordering anonymous thousands of our ancestors to leave Samaria, Jerusalem, London, Cordoba, Berlin, and so many other places which they had so briefly called their home.

And what of us, who dwell in comfort in the latest of those homes? From whom will we hear the call·‘lech l’cha’, the command to stir ourselves from the location to which we have become accustomed and move to places new and unknown? We live in an age of tolerance, one in which, we believe, such words will never be uttered by the forces the represent the authorities in the land in which we dwell. Perhaps our ancestors in Jerusalem, Spain or Germany held similar beliefs, only to find those beliefs shattered by a chain of events that they were powerless to influence or change.

So even as we give thanks for the liberties we enjoy, let us remind ourselves also that the demand·‘lech l’cha’ might reach us from voices other than those of authorities ordering us to leave the place we call our home. Just because we personally are not victims of such cruelty or injustice in our age does not mean that there are no places in the world where people suffer. As we read just a month ago in our Yom Kippur service ‘Where have men, women and children not cowered in cellars and caves, keeping the small flame of life burning against the gale of hate and fear?’·(Machzor Ru’ach Chadashah, p.316)

So let us be alert to the cry of·‘lech l’cha’, from wherever it may call us. Always in our lives there is the possibility for us to get up and move away from a situation in which we have allowed ourselves to become complacent, and turn those lives around, making ourselves a force for good in the world. We do not need to wait for that call to come from other human beings who might wish us ill – indeed, let us be glad that we are apparently free from such possibilities. But we can still respond to that call within our own consciences – to get up, to go out into the world and fight for the rights of those who live in fear of hearing that demand to leave the security of the place they think of as their home.