- Abram, Sarai, and Lot go to Canaan. (12:1-9)
- Famine takes them to Egypt, where Abram identifies Sarai as his sister in order to save his life. (12:10-20)
- Abram and Lot separate. Lot is taken captive, and Abram rescues him. (13:1-14:24)
- Abram has a son, Ishmael, with his Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. (16:1-16)
- God establishes a covenant with Abram. The sign of this covenant is circumcision on the eighth day following a male baby's birth. (17:1-27)
When I was perhaps eight or possibly nine years old I was told by my parents that I was about to begin attending Hebrew School. I was not happy that there was now going to be more work to do and less time to play. This was not good news and I looked upon the whole thing with no particular pleasure and a good deal of skepticism as my parents, although they themselves grew up in religious homes, no longer maintained a kosher home or observed Shabbat.
I attended Hebrew school as a duty but was not a good student. I learned to read and write Hebrew and I could even write Hebrew script. When called upon to read a passage of my choice I would choose Hillel not because I understood the words but because it was easy for me to recite. I did all this without much enthusiasm as what I learned was not practiced at home or anywhere else in my immediate world.
At twelve I began to study to become a Bar Mitzvah, which would occur just after my thirteenth birthday. I studied my parashah along with the trope (the musical notation that is written above and sometimes below the words).
The big day arrived and I managed to get through my parashah, Lekh Lekha, without damaging the Torah or embarrassing myself. It was all just part of my duty and I had very little understanding of the story I had just completed. Rabbi Chait, the head Rabbi at our Shul, presented me with a gift of a Tanakh and inscribed it with a reference to what I had just read, “Be Thou A Blessing”.
Thank goodness I was done. No more twice a week Hebrew School and one or two more days a week for Bar Mitzvah study. Free at last, free at last.
In my late teens my brother and his wife came to California and I just knew that I had to follow, which I did when I was twenty.
After I married my wonderful wife Hedy, and we had a couple of great kids we started thinking about joining a Temple and in the process of deciding which would be the right choice I picked up my Tanakh and reread Lekh Lekah. I began to muse over the first few verses. The Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I wondered, could I, a pretty ordinary person, have received a similar message? No, I experienced neither visions nor voices and yet here I was in a far off land. I wondered how many immigrants to this country had made a similar connection.
It is surprising how we can latch on to a few words and actually have them change our thinking and our lives. That little phrase “Be though a blessing” seemed to be a kind of obligation, my own commandment, and stayed with me thereafter and whenever I was tempted to push the moral or ethical limits, that little phrase was just like an Angel on my shoulder that whispered “Be though a blessing”. I think Rabbi Chait would have laughed had he known what an effect that little note would have on my future behavior.
We are about to retell the saga of Genesis and I will re-experience hearing again the words of the Lord instructing Abram to Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. Whenever I read or hear that passage it has a special meaning for me.
Lot, his nephew, accompanies Abram on his travels with all their holdings of cattle, gold and the people they had acquired. They settle in Canaan but as there was insufficient vegetation to support both of their herds they agree to separate and go in different directions. Lot eventually settled in the city of Sodom, and as we are told, the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked sinners against the Lord.
One of the thoughts I had about this portion was that it demonstrated the differences between Abram and Lot. Abram seems to obey all of the instructions of the Lord without question while Lot chooses to remain in the wicked city of Sodom. We learn in chapter fourteen how loyal Abram was when word reaches him that Sodom has fallen and Lot, his nephew, has been taken prisoner along with all his goods. Abram, in his old age, pursues those who have taken Lot and defeats them. All of the goods and people that were captured were rescued and returned. It plainly implies that if we obey the Lord and follow his commandments we will be rewarded.
Rewards come in different shapes and sizes. Rewards are not always the promise of land or wealth or the assurance that our descendants will own this or that land. Sometimes rewards come in abstract forms. I choose to believe that living a good moral and ethical life; a life that tries to follow what Genesis and Judaism teach will set us on a safe path. Even if we are less than perfect in our practice we can still benefit spiritually by our positive actions.
If Lekh Lekha can be so enlightening, I have to wonder what we could garner from the rest of the Tanakh, and how much more our lives could be enriched.