Seeing It: Parashat Lekh L’kha

Parashah Lekh Lekha 2015

Torah Sparks
Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
With this portion we begin in earnest the rich and complicated story of the ancestors of the Jewish people. Abraham and Sarah are the first Patriarch and Matriarch. But, for many years they remain childless, and the future of their vision of a people serving the One God does not appear assured.

Among the many episodes related in this Torah portion, there is one of great tenderness. God has appeared to Abram (- Abraham’s original name before God changed it) and promised him to be his protector, promising him great reward. But Abram answers despondently. He is childless, so what good is all his reward? At this moment the text says something beautiful and amazing: “And He [- God] took him [- Abram] outside and He said, ‘Look, now, toward the heavens and count the stars, if you can actually count them. And He said to him, ‘Your children will be like that.” (Gen. 15:5)

God sees that simply speaking to Abraham and making promises to him will not be sufficient. Abraham’s spirit is depleted. So God takes him around the shoulder, so to speak, and walks him outside. This moment of intimate, non-verbal contact is beautifully, but simply, conveyed. God and Abraham walk slowly together, wordlessly, moving from within the enclosed tent where Abraham lived and out into the night air. And the next moment continues with this feeling. God does not make more promises to Abram. Instead God has Abraham look up into the vast expanse of the star-studded evening sky. God’s nearness to Abraham is palpable. Yet God does not depend on God’s own Presence to penetrate Abram’s spirit and revive it. God depends on the emotional effect that comes from looking up into the sky. It is standing under the sky’s array of stars that will be able to impress Abraham, rather than God’s own infinite Being. Even Abraham, who speaks directly with God, needs the more attainable experience of simply pondering nature in order to regain his trust and faith in God. And so God makes sure to offer Abraham that experience – whatever will work to help Abraham regain his faith. And he does: “And he had faith in the Eternal; and He counted it as if he had given Him a gift.” (v. 6)

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi David Greenstein

image:  “Night Lights” © Jason Jenkins altered and used with permission via Creative Commons License

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Rabbi David Greenstein

Rabbi David Greenstein

Rabbi David Greenstein arrived at Shomrei Emunah in August 2009 with a rich, broad and deep background as a rabbi, cantor, artist, scholar, and teacher. Being Shomrei’s rabbi, he says, allows him to draw on all of these passions, as well as his lifelong commitment to building Jewish communities.
Rabbi David Greenstein

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