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When we stay and when we go

10/31/2022 03:35:21 PM

Oct31

Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

A few weeks ago, I asked people who attended Friday night services what motivated them to leave their homes and find their way to Brandeis for services on a Friday night, when there were many other things competing for their time. People said such a variety of things, some very surprising. The music, the community, loyalty to our tradition, to learn, to remember, to honor our ancestors, to say Kaddish, and so much more. It’s always good for us to think about what motivates us and what we are seeking. Our answers will always differ; we create a beautiful tapestry of community. When we stay and when we go in general is one thing that Lech L’cha (this week’s Torah portion) invites us to think about. The Hebrew for the name of the parasha, Lech L’cha, is interpreted so many ways, all related to ways and reasons we go.

The rabbis over the years have interpreted the phrase lech l’cha in the following ways: 

  • Go to yourself
  • Go to your soul  
  • Go learn who you are meant to be
  • Go become that person who will be a blessing to the world
  • Some say that although “lech l’cha” was said to Abraham by God, each soul hears this invitation.
  • The Ishbitzer Rebbe, a Chassidic rebbe, said it means we are to leave our habits, and all that is comfortable behind.

In all of these interpretations, there is a going; but the destination is unclear by the words lech l’cha alone, and even in the phrase which comes after, “where God will show you.”

I ask us all to think about when we stay and when we go, and what motivates us to choose one over the other?

This Friday at services, we will explore how Lech L’cha can guide our lives, especially at times when we are not sure where we are to go. Or maybe we will learn to stay and appreciate the place where we are. I look forward to seeing you there.


Artwork by Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Wed, February 8 2023 17 Shevat 5783