Parashat Lech Lecha opens with God directing Abram and Sarai (their names had not yet been changed to Abraham and Sarah) to embark on a holy journey from their homeland towards a new land that God would show them (the Land of Israel) and the multi-part blessing they were given as they embarked: "I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those that bless you and curse those who curse you; and all the families of the earth shall bless
themselves by you."
Abraham and Sarah have influenced more people than any other (of course, he
and his legacy have had 4,000 years of experience!) in introducing
monotheism to the world. During their lifetimes, Abraham and Sarah drew
large numbers of followers (tens of thousands) through the way they taught
and led their lives - quiet honesty, kindness, hospitality, decency,
menschlichkeit (being a mensch). When we emulate them and demonstrate these
traits, we, too, become a blessing to others and to ourselves.
Parashat Lech Lecha marks the beginning of the relationship between the
Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
The parasha also includes the birth of Ishmael, whose descendants live throughout the Mideast, our ancestral cousins from biblical times with whom we are not doomed, but destined to live together (according to Israel's President, Reuven Rivlin).
Abraham was the ultimate 'non-conformist'; he challenged power and authority and the status quo not for the sake of change alone, but for the sake of a better world defined by loving-kindness; he envisioned what life could be and set out to create that still dreamed about but largely unrealized world; he was not afraid to be different from those around him and to speak out for those with no advocate for the sake of the betterment of humanity. No one 'elected him'; he wielded no power other than that which is a demonstration of the best of the human spirit and soul, and a sense of what is just with the courage to act in accordance = leadership.
We are nearing the conclusion of a lengthy and contentious presidential election that has shown, even more than the strengths and flaws of the individual candidates or political parties themselves, a disconnect, a disenfranchisement of large sectors of our country's population on both sides who feel they have not been heard or protected, who may be afraid and fearful because of what has been as well as what may be. There is no quick fix, whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House, because this is more than partisan politics. The ideals and institutions of this country
are greater than any individual. It is up to each of us to remember and act upon what our tradition teaches; to safeguard what we treasure and value through intentions, actions and speech based on chesed (compassion; lovingkindness); to remember that our own wellbeing is intrinsically connected with the safety and well-being of our neighbors; to listen to each other, to hear each other. This is to protect ourselves and our well-being as well as because it is the right thing to do!
What do you do if you are pleased/displeased with the outcome of this election? The same thing: remember to be a voice for those whose voices, whose rights are threatened or quashed; live your life in a way that models chesed; follow what we teach our children: act responsibly, do your homework, fulfill your obligations, stand up to bullies, reach out to others and treat them with kindness; don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe, be good, and remember always that you are a person of value, of unique gifts and talents, that what you do and what you say (as well as what
you don't do and don't say) matters greatly, and remember always that you are loved.
Want to talk more - not about the election and politics, but of the world we want to build, the world we want to live in? About Jewish notions of civility and argumentation without being argumentative? About the legacy started by Abraham and Sarah and that continues through us? Come to Torah Talk (online) this Shabbat morning,10:30 am. Email Renee at email@example.com or Ellen by 3:00 p.m. Friday to RSVP and receive the Zoom link.Here's the prayer for our Nation and its Rulers that we could do each Shabbat, and certainly do each year on the High Holy Days:
We pray for all who hold positions of leadership and responsibility in our national life. Let Your blessing rest upon them and make them responsive to Your will, so that our nation may be to the world an example of justice and compassion, peace and security, happiness, prosperity, and freedom.
Deepen our love for our country and our desire to serve it. Cause us to see
clearly that the well-being of our nation is in the hands of all its citizens. May we all forge a common bond to banish all hatred and bigotry and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions, which are the pride and glory of our country. May this land be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom and helping them to fulfill the vision of Your prophet: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war anymore."
A treat from my colleague, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, based on Psalm 89 from our Tanakh (Bible): Olam Chesed Yibaneh - We will build this world from love! He wrote this song for his daughter, born in the aftermath of 9/11.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHp-jcPlKIY&feature=em-share_video_user
Blessings for a Shabbat full of shalom, Rabbi