Commentary for Lech Lecha

31 Oct

At the beginning of this week’s parshah, Abraham receives a calling from God. He is to leave his homeland and leave his father’s household and go to the land of Cana’an and spread the word of monotheism and belief in the One True God. Before this happens, we know very little of Abraham. We know who his father and brothers were, where he was born, the name of woman he married, and the place he was living at the time. This isn’t much information, and in fact, is not much more than we know about most of the other individuals listed in the various genealogies found in the pre-Abraham chapters of Genesis. He seems to be, for all intents and purposes, just another guy.

The commentators seek to explain why this apparently random fellow is chosen for the important task of telling everyone about God. Many focus on the idea that Abraham was already a monotheist before Gold called to him, telling stories of Abraham working in his father’s idol shop and using logic to show both customers and his father the foolishness of worshipping idols.

When God calls to Abraham, God asks him to undertake a new, more difficult challenge. He must leave the lands where his father’s name, influence, and reputation might protect him, and journey to a land where he will be a complete foreigner, and spread the belief in the One True God there.

The past few weeks are time of spiritual high for the Jewish People. Moving High Holiday services help us focus ourselves on honest introspection, aiding us in clarifying our personal goals for the new year. We then enter into the long period of the holidays of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, which are all referred to as “the time of our rejoicing,” and the joy of Simchat Torah spills over into the following Shabbat, when the first parshah of the Torah is read again. The week after that contains the celebration of Rosh Chodesh, concluding the month of Tishrei and beginning the month of Cheshvan.

Unlike Tishrei, Cheshvan has no holidays, and is sometimes referred to as Mar-Cheshvan (“bitter Cheshvan) for this reason. Without the joy of the holidays and the feeling of closeness to God that they bring, the resolutions we make on High Holidays, which shone like beacons in the distance, illuminating the path to where we truly want to be, begin to fade. We return to the “real world” of work and responsibilities, and things begin to simply “get in the way.” We put our goals off, we procrastinate, and all too often we simply give up when the going starts to get tough.

Abraham did not give up. When God put challenges in his way, Abraham accepted them head-on. As we now march full-fledged into the month of Cheshvan, we must learn from Abraham’s example, and not allow life’s challenges to get in the way of fulfilling the goals we have set for ourselves for the new year.

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