Lech L’cha, translated as, “go forth,” or “get going,” or, intriguingly, “go towards yourself.” This week’s parsha introduces us to Abram and his journey. No sooner do we meet him and his wife Sarai than God sends him away from his birthplace, to a land that will be revealed, but as we know from Joseph Campbell’s reading of The Hero’s Journey, the journey is what counts.
A midrash on the parsha (Tanchuma, Lech L’cha 3) compares Abram to a sealed container of perfumed oil, hidden in a cemetery – bottled up and kept in a place where there is no life. Once Abram set forth, though, that beautiful fragrance was taken up, spread around, and made familiar throughout the world.
My favorite poem in all of Mishkan T’fillah, “Becoming,” penned by a member of our community, Rabbi Norman Hirsh, is inspired by this week’s parsha (I quote it frequently):
Once or twice in a lifetime
A man or woman may choose
A radical leaving, having heard
Lech lecha – Go forth.
God disturbs us toward our destiny
By hard events
And by freedom’s now urgent voice
Which explode and confirm who we are.
We don’t like leaving
But God loves becoming.
While our “radical leavings,” may only occur once or twice in a lifetime, we make the choice to get out and go forth in the world in our own way every single day. Whether we work from home, or outside of it, with people or on our own, each day requires a choice to go forth. For some of us, getting out of bed is a radical act of bravery. I love that the saga of our ancestors begins with this command for it is universal in its simplicity and urgency. We go outward, and we dial inward, and by doing both at the same time, commanded and encouraged by a compassionate God, we offer our beautiful, unique, singular fragrance to the world.