Lech Lecha – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis
Why do we move on? The Sedra Lech Lecha asks Abram to “go forth” but almost all of us have, either through our own decisions or sometimes being driven by external forces, moved on physically or otherwise. Life is a journey, but it can also be a challenge. Why not stay and better what we have? Maimonides suggested that Abraham should have stayed in Canaan and had faith in God: that he would sustain him.
We are now no longer concentrating on humanity as a whole but on one man, Abraham and one woman, Sarah together with their family: one group amongst many others. Having travelled to Canaan on the instruction from God and the promises he received, Abram built altars at Shechem and then Beth El. But rather than settling there, as he had been instructed, he goes on: driven by the famine in the land rather than by faith in God.
And Abram travelled: continually travelling southward.
וַיִּסַּ֣ע אַבְרָ֔ם הָל֥וֹךְ וְנָס֖וֹעַ הַנֶּֽגְבָּה
In Egypt, it is by the intervention of God that he escapes. He departs not just with many possessions but with Sarah and all his family. Lot moves away and is captured by the king of Sodom who offers to ransom Lot and his family.
And the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the souls, and the possessions take for yourself."
Abram refuses. For him, possessions are worth little, but the souls of his family cannot be sacrificed. Here, on the plain of Mamre near Hebron, Abram asks God “what will you give me”. The answer would be the covenant
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם וְאַתָּ֖ה אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֑ר אַתָּ֛ה וְזַרְעֲךָ֥ אַֽחֲרֶ֖יךָ לְדֹֽרֹתָֽם:
God said to Abraham, "And you shall keep My covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations.
Martin Buber the philosopher wrote that God wanted us to fulfil his commandments as humans: with a quality peculiar to humanity. He speaks about God being the electricity that surges between people relating to one another. How do we do that?
It is not by concentrating on physical matters, structures, and wealth, nor by being a socially motivated society. It is by respecting our differences, our common heritage, our traditions and our faith.