WRJ Voices: Lech L'cha

November 8, 2019Rosanne Selfon

“The Eternal said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your land, your people’s land, your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.’” Genesis 12:1

Go forth…just do it…move on…

How many times have you been stuck, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually? You might have been so stuck that you felt like your feet were wedged in cement, your heart had been broken into a million pieces, or your faith was tested beyond repair. Or, just imagine, on the other hand, that life was marvelous, and suddenly you were commanded, by some unseen source only you heard/believed in without hesitation, to leave this wonderful home and extended family on an unknown journey to some unknown place. Hmmm… just think about that directive. How would that play out in your family circle? What kind of journey would that involve?

Sometimes we read these incredible Torah portions, particularly the Genesis stories, and fondly recall our childhood Bible tales. But as we age, it becomes essential to read those same stories through a different lens. As we have evolved, so the stories’ meanings have changed for each of us. And, truly, the miracle of Torah and Judaism is that Torah and its constant turning and turning has allowed Judaism to thrive for thousands of years without becoming irrelevant.

My rabbi, Rabbi Jack Paskoff, spoke Erev Shabbat before his sabbatical began recently. He will take a few months, the first time in 26 years, to renew himself, spending almost two months in Israel studying and working with those who need him as well as traveling to other congregations to bring home what is new and innovative for our congregation. Jack (his preference for naming) requested our choir sing Lechi Lach – perhaps my most favorite Debbie Friedman z”l song (this is another conversation for another time). The rabbi spoke about journeys, reflecting that he was on a journey – one without knowing exactly what he would experience, learn, dislike, or enjoy. He would spend contemplative time alone, a huge difference from his normal schedule. And his quest would reveal, perhaps, new thoughts for and about himself at 58 years old.  Indeed, he was on a journey of faith, spirit, and endurance.

Though many of us are not on months or even days or weeks of sabbaticals, each of us is on an epic life journey filled with choices every day of our lives. I’m not referring to choices like what to cook or where to buy groceries or even what bill to pay. Think bigger and deeper. Every moment of our daily lives demonstrates our choices of how we live. A few examples include: 

  • Did you notice the sunrise or the sunset and feel a sense of awe? 
  • If it rained, did you stop to smell its freshness? 
  • Did you look directly at someone and give a smile, tell he/she/they hello or thank you or have a good day? 
  • Did you remember to say I love you? 
  • Did you realize how fortunate you are to have food, a house, the warmth of heat, and water to drink?  

These simple thoughts, questions, and kindnesses can enhance your journey, your quest, significantly by making you far more appreciative of the life you live. It’s your choice to design the journey, yours and yours alone.

Abram and Sarai (although I do believe she didn’t have much choice in those ancient days) made amazing choices. Abram’s choice became the ultimate decision to create a Jewish people. Each of us may not make journey decisions quite as influential, but our decisions are no less important to those we love.  Above all, may I suggest: Wake up each day; remember to learn, to dream and to make wise and thoughtful decisions AND to say to yourself….Today, I will be a blessing.


Rosanne Selfon is a past president of WRJ. She also serves as the past chair of the URJ Camp Harlam Council and as the co-chair of Women of Shaarai Shomayim.

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