Torah Portion: Lech Lecha
Book of Genesis
October 23, 2015
“And God Said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from you parents home to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1)
With a simple request to “Go Forth”, the march toward monotheism-a belief in the One God-commences. The journey begins with Abram, one brave soul willing to not only leave his family home and the locale he grew up in, but also leave behind the beliefs of youth in pursuit of new understandings and new meanings. Not an easy journey, then or now.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner writes, “The great, unending psychospiritual task of every human being is separating from his or her parents. Loved or hated, near or far, living or long dead, it’s never done. We spend our days trying to be who we imagine we want to be and not who they wanted us to be. We strive with all our cunning to infuriate them even as we secretly yearn to make them smile and to fulfill their secret dreams. But before we can finish, or even figure out what’s going on, we have our own children and the whole thing starts all over again from the other side.”
While being a parent is about knowing when to let go, maturing from childhood to young adult is about learning when to leave. As my first-born child boarded the plane for a post-high school year in Israel, I felt an aching emptiness inside. It would never be the same. She would return home but only as an occasional visitor, a treasured guest. It was time to let go and for her time to set forth. The proverbial nest is a place for nurturing, not living. In a real sense, the parent’s role is to give of themselves through education and example. The young adult’s role is to absorb, rebel, and grow.
Children mistake a parent’s academic and behavioral discipline for disdain (“Why do you hate me?”). Parents mistake a growing child’s rebellion for disrespect (“Why do you insult me like this?”). When the young adult leaves home, both parent and child mask the same sense of loss. This is the natural progression of life.
Rabbi Kushner concludes, “. . .the text is clear: Doing business with this new, imageless, and as yet unnamed God means to leave home, to commence the struggle, to believe unto your dying breath that you will break free from [your parents] orbit. But as you grow older-much older-you would be grateful if you could just (even occasionally) strike a balance between your parents and yourself and your children. Maybe that is the land God will show us and what it means to be a blessing.”
Rabbi Howard Siegel