Archive for the '1.03 Lech Lecha' Category



Looking Back

Blog trafficIn this week’s Torah portion we read about the destruction of Sodom. When the angel informs Lot and his family of the imminent destruction of their home town, they are warned not to look back lest they be swept away (Genesis 19:17). And we all know, as they are leaving, Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). What was so wrong with looking back?

I would venture to say that we have all been delayed on a highway due to the delays of a crash on the other side of the divide. We curse the people ahead of us, but when it is our turn we join the rubberneckers slowing down to look back at that crash ourselves. It is natural to want to see the spectacle of destruction, but we know that it is not beneficial to society.

The story of Lot’s wife stands in contrast to Avraham. He too was instructed to leave and in another way told not look back. God told him to: “Get out of your country, and you’re your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). If he had really turned his back on his father’s house he would not have repeatedly come to the rescue of his cousin Lot. Where Lot’s wife looks back to gawk at the pain of other’s, Avraham turns back to aid and assist. I want to share with you an Irish blessing, “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

Movement of One

Inevitably, when meeting a Jewish person, we inquire (or worse assume) their movement affiliation. While people can report to you where their parents’ or grandparents’ commitments have been, their own connections are more often than not a default position. They know that they are not X or Y, so they must be Z. For the exceptions, I hope that we realize how exceptional we truly are.  If not, it seems that be have been taken in by the hegemony of organized Jewish life.

What has blinded us from seeing the limits of the sunken resources of the institutions of American denominational Judaism? While they claim to be the bedrock of Jewish life, the answers to the hard questions of Jewish continuity lie beneath. Like Jacques Cousteau have to take the plunge and look into the deep for the true foundation of Jewish life. While we pride ourselves on community, we can never forget the charge to forge a personal commitment to Judaism. I have little doubt that Judaism will not continue to contribute to the world unless it can actually speaks to each Jew individually.

From Judaism’s inception, as we read in Lech Lecha this weeks Torah portion,  “ Now the Lord said unto Abram: ‘Get yourself out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2) We all have to make commitments on our own terms and we need to follow through regardless of how lonely that might make us. You should be proud of the risk that you will take in the name of truth. Have no doubt that following our convictions will have repercussions in our families, friends, and community.  You might be alone or who knows, you might be on to something. So, venture forth and state your claim to your Jewish life. Being Jewish is not a state of being, rather it is a state of becoming. Take strength in the fact that our movement of one started with Avraham.

If  you need to need to get into the mood…

Even if you are alone, you are not alone at being alone.


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