So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. — Genesis 12:4
The Torah portion for this week is Lech Lecha, which means “go to yourself.” It is from Genesis 12:1–17:27, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:27–41:16.
At the conclusion of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, we say the following phrase seven times: “The LORD — He is God!” It is this deep-seated clarity that we try to bring into our lives as Yom Kippur ends. A story is told about a renowned Hasidic master who interrupted his thousands of pious followers as they fervently uttered this phrase while Yom Kippur came to a close. With a loud thud on the lectern, he turned to his students and proclaimed, “You know, there really is a God!”
Sometimes, even the most pious of us need to be reminded of and reaffirm this most basic truth.
In this week’s Torah portion, we encounter Abraham, the individual who brought the belief of one God to a pagan world. Abraham faithfully obeyed God’s command to uproot himself and his family and go to an unknown land that his God would show him. But how did Abraham become the man that he was? How did he have such clarity of God when it eluded everyone else around him?
According to Judaism’s Oral Tradition, Abraham had an unusual childhood. Nimrod, the king at the time, had been advised by his astrologers that a child would be born to a woman named Amatlai and a man named Terah, who would change the world. Nimrod wasn’t interested in any changes, so he ordered Amatlai to hand over her son as soon as he was born. Instead she left Abraham in a field and prayed that whoever or whatever made him would save him. After several weeks past, Amatlai returned and was stunned to find her baby miraculously alive. Terah placed the boy in a dungeon in order to hide him for the remainder of Abraham’s childhood.
One day, when his parents deemed it safe enough, Abraham came out of the cave into a world he had never seen. He saw the shinning sun, the blue sky, trees, flowers, people, animals – an intricate tapestry of life. He saw how the sun set with the rise of the moon and how the moon faded with the rise of the sun. He was struck by the awe and wonder of everything most people took for granted. He realized that such beauty must have an artist and such intricate workings must have a maker. With fresh, unbiased eyes, Abraham came to this simple truth: “The LORD – He is God.”
Friends, when things get confusing in life, we also must return to this basic truth. God created us, cares about us, and is intimately involved in our lives. In due time He will punish evil and reward righteousness. Indeed, “The LORD – He is God.”
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President