Lech L'cha: Set Your Preferences?

Watch/hear this 3 min D'var Torahhttp://youtu.be/iXk3x7fsVTw  Throughout Jewish history, our sages have commented on the strange phraseology of G-d’s command to Abraham: Lech L’cha to the land that I will show you.  They’ve pointed out that Lech L’cha doesn’t literally mean “go forth” but “go for yourself,” or “go to yourself.”   And from this, our sages have emphasized that each of us should embark upon a personal, even solitary spiritual journey, to discover what G-d wishes to reveal as the purpose of our life.

Our society also emphasizes going “for” or “to” ourself.  But usually, this isn’t to promote a spiritual journey.  Instead, we are encouraged to go forth on another shopping expedition to buy something we hope will make us more attractive, more efficient, gratify our own desires, or express our individuality. 

Our society, our friends, our co-workers, and even some counselors encourage us to do what feels good, and what we want to do. It’s as if our life is a great electronic device which we can and should “set” or update to our preferences.

Freedom and self-expression are wonderful gifts.  But we shouldn’t let them become means to self-centeredness and ultimate meaninglessness.   

Why did G-d tell Abraham to “go for yourself?”  It wasn’t so that Abraham could be happier or feel more self-fulfilled.  It was so that G-d could make him and his descendants into a great nation and bless them.  It was so that Abraham could learn his destiny and become the founder of a great and ethical people.  With his freedom of choice and of action came a great responsibility to others, especially to future generations.  And so it is with you and I.     

Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to use our freedoms and choices to make this a better world.  As Jews, we have a particular responsibility to support the strength and continuity of our own people, and of Israel, our national homeland.  We can’t fulfill our responsibilities if we only use our precious freedoms to “have it our way” or to “express ourselves.” 

This Shabbat – and every day – I encourage each of us to consider the purpose of our lives.  What are we hoping we will have accomplished when our short time is over? Which are our priorities?  Are we using each precious day, our relationships, and our resources, to discover and to realize our purpose?

Lech l’cha.  Yes, “Go to yourself,” but with a sacred purpose: discovering how not to be just for yourself.

May your Shabbat be peaceful, blessed, and full of light! 


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If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.
Jewish Proverb