By Reb David
The third weekly portion of the Book of Genesis, Lech Lecha, recounts the fateful journey of Avraham. Known then as Avram, literally “high ancestor” or “high sprout” (av ram), he is the progenitor of all monotheistic traditions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — whose narratives all flow from this fateful beginning. Genesis 12 begins:
וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ … וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה…. וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו ה’ וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ לוֹט וְאַבְרָם בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה בְּצֵאתוֹ
And God said to Avram, “Go [to Yourself]” … and I will make you great, and bless and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. Avram went as God told him, and [his nephew] Lot went with him; and Avram was 75 when he departed.
The story continues that Avram uprooted his family, relocated from Haran to Canaan (Israel), moved a second time to Egypt and back again to survive famine, changed his name to Avraham, had two sons, hobnobbed with kings and high priests, and negotiated with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
One striking feature of this story is that it makes no effort to suggest that Avram knew where he was going or what would happen. To the contrary, Avram went where he did not know: he sensed only a Voice calling him, Lech lecha — “Go!” Avram left behind familiarity and ventured into the unknown, knowing only the call to do so.
Another striking feature of this story is that Avram was 75 when he heeded this call. What courage Avram must have had to leave behind familiarity at that age and go boldly into uncertainty. Of course, leaving behind familiarity can be a challenge at any age. Avram’s story invites us to summon courage to embrace change at any phase in our lives — to release what is time to release and embrace new journeys wherever they lead. And it reminds us, too, that it’s never too late.
That’s the point of lech lecha — not just “go,” but “go to yourself.” We can become more ourselves when we allow ourselves the gift of change and flow rather than grasping at fixity and familiarity. After all, only when we release fixity can we make room to evolve and grow. Only then can we become more like the “us” that is the point of the journey.
And when we do that, if we heed the call of lech lecha, maybe that’s when we can “be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). Becoming more ourselves is a blessing to the world, and it can invite others to do the same. As poet Marianne Williamson (quoted by Nelson Mandela) put it their times:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So lech lecha — let go, and go to yourself: it’s never too late.