D’var Torah: Parshat Lech L’cha – Be a Blessing!
Do you ever feel stuck? Like you had once started on a path and now feel like you have lost your way? Almost hopeless because the world feels too big for you to make a difference?
Avram and his family were stuck. Last week’s portion ends with Avram’s father beginning the journey to the Promised Land but settling somewhere on the way in Haran. Then, suddenly, Avram hears God’s call and restarts the journey. I have always focused on the words “lech l’cha” – go for your own sake. This suggests that the journey is for our benefit.
This morning, I was thinking about the destination. Where is Avram going? God says “to a land that I will show you.” Based on the text, Avram already knew that he was going to Canaan. I would suggest that God was going to show Avram a state of being and not a place – that God was showing Avram a society that God and humanity would work together to build. I think we often know where we want to go but we sometimes get stuck, discouraged and dismayed along the path.
I have been thinking about how I can make a difference and how Camp Ramah can impact our campers so they go on a journey to make the world a better place. Avram was 75 when he left Haran for Canaan. Many might say that he was too old to be changing the world.
My parents are around Avram’s age. I was talking to my dad, a retired law professor yesterday, about how we influence children and make an impact in our world. He told me that he no longer makes an impact by lecturing in law school (although his new article is being published soon). He feels that he can make a difference by how he interacts with the people he comes into contact with. If he cheerfully greets the person in the dentist’s office or at the gelato store, he can make them feel good and important and they will more likely pass that on to others. When I was a little boy, my dad would take the time to speak to everyone, from the elevator operator to the guy behind the deli counter. While at the time I thought that they didn’t want to be bothered, I now know that this made them feel good and important.
My mother didn’t answer the phone the other day. She called back a few minutes later to explain that she had left her phone in the car while she was delivering lunches to mostly homeless people. I didn’t even know she did that. That is typical for my mom, who has always done much without drawing attention to herself. Yet there she goes making a difference, one person at a time.
God’s blessing to Avram contains the line “And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” My dad reminded me that children watch what we do, which has a profound impact. When they see us helping others and taking interest in each person, they internalize this lesson and are likely to implement it in their own lives.
God told Avram to go “to a land that I will show you.” This ideal is something we pass on to our children and to others through our actions, both small and large. Sometimes we feel stuck. The key is to get going again and to continue on the journey. I know that my parents continue to have a deep influence on me. I hope that I can do the same for my family and for the people I interact with in my role as Ramah director. Let us all strive to be blessings for each other. Shabbat Shalom.