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Torah Commentary
Lech L'cha (October 24, 2015)

Erika Resnick,
Program Director, Temple Emanu-El Skirball Center


It seems a bit odd that this quotation from this week’s Torah portion should come right at the very pinnacle of the Major League baseball playoffs, “Go take a walk…” But perhaps God was onto a very important concept, for Abram, later Abraham, and for us.

We all are familiar with how important walks and walking are in today’s world. How many of us wear “bits” on our wrists in order to record how many steps we’ve taken during the day? And back to baseball…“A walk’s as good as a hit.” Taking walks and understanding the importance of setting out toward a goal are concepts around which many of us base our personal and professional lives.

In Lech L’cha, God tells Abraham to go, to walk away from his land and his father’s family toward a land to which God will direct him. But Abraham did not walk alone, he took his “team” — Sarai, later Sarah, his wife; his nephew Lot; and “all of the persons they acquired in Haran” — and together they all set out on a path to Canaan. How very different this path is than that of Noah and his family, whom we read about just last week. Noah is focused only on his family, for God commands Noah to do just that. And, Noah shows no concern for the rest of humanity and never challenges God’s word. The flood will take all of the other lives on Earth, but Noah is only going to save his own family. Abraham, on the other hand, takes a group, comprised not only of his own family, with him on his journey.

God is sending Abraham out with a very important mission; his job is to bring the concept of one God to the world. Up to this point, most religious traditions were based on multiple images of gods — in statue form, paintings, masks, or even animals or mercurial beings in the sky. Abraham is the first to take the idea of one God and one set of rules to follow to the world. God wants a world where people behave in a righteous way to each other, with respect and with love. This demands the willingness to sometimes be alone in the world, standing alone for a principle that is right.

Noted Bible scholar Dr. Aviva Zornberg expresses the idea this way, “For the first time a journey is undertaken not as an act of exile (Adam and Cain) or a quest for domination (Babel) but as a response to a divine imperative.”

So, Abraham takes the “walk.” It is a very brave move in a world that was not always responsive to his message…and in some regard, is still not responsive to this day. Those of us who remain on Abraham’s “team” understand the difficulty of his task, for he could not possibly have foreseen the twists and turns, the peaks and valleys that his first steps would take us on so many generations later.

But, without his courage to take that first step, where would be today? That lesson is still alive with us and is one that we instill in our children: Don’t be afraid to take a “walk” or to take that first step with confidence. With God’s guidance and the support of our “team,” we can accomplish great things and continue to make our world a better place.

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