Parashat Lekh Lekha
If I were working as a translator, asked to concisely render the opening words of this parashah, I think I’d be stumped. I would have to make a clear choice that sums up the meaning of these words. The phrase lekh lekha can be translated in a number of different ways. The Radak, Rabbi Dovid Kimhi, a 12th and 13th century commentator, assures us that it was simply a Hebrew idiom, commanding Avram to “go forth.” Rashi, in the 11th century, states that God is commanding Avram to “go for” himself, for his own benefit and profit. Others have suggested that Avram is being instructed to “go to” himself, to become his authentic self. It would seem that I am a bit greedy – and thankfully I have not been asked to succinctly translate this passage – I want it all. In my reading of this parashah, Avram is being commanded to do all of these things. God is telling him to “go forth” from his land, from his kin, and from his father’s house, and he is being commanded to do so for his own benefit, leaving behind everything he has known, to do the will of God in order that he may develop into his true, authentic self.
A life of recovery places these same demands upon us. At Beit T’Shuvah we push ourselves to move beyond the ways of life that we have known, sometimes requiring us to cut ties with the people and places with whom we have felt safe and may even have called home, seeking that place that – we have been assured – God will show us. When we undertake the journey, commanded here of Avram, we are living our t’shuvah. T’shuvah does not merely mean “repentance,” as it is most often translated, but can also be translated as a “response” or “return.” In our weekly T’shuvah groups, we are committed to examining our lives, noting when we have succeeded in overcoming our old ways of being by responding differently, as well as acknowledging where we have become stuck in those old behaviors, indulging our own self will. We do this in an effort to return to our authentic selves. As difficult as Avram’s journey must have been, he was certain that God was speaking directly to him. In surrendering our self will to the will of God, we seek to commit to taking the next right action, and we may not always succeed in this. Committing to a life of t’shuvah does not mean that we will not make mistakes or that we will always hit the mark. Living a life of t’shuvah means that we are engaged in our lives, seeking to become our authentic selves, and acknowledging our shortcomings in the hope of not repeating them.
When I read this opening line from Parashat Lekh Lekha, I understand that I am being instructed to follow the will of God, as I understand it, in order to become my truest self. The will of God is not a road map, but is constantly unfolding before me. I cannot yet know the place that God will show me, but if I am living as my authentic self, I can be assured that I will reach it. I think it’s true that, on the surface level, God is taking Avram on a journey to a physical place, but I have no doubt that the journey for Avram, and indeed for us, goes beyond geography and will lead us to our truest selves, where we can fulfill the second commandment in this parashah, to be a blessing.