D’var Torah: October 21, 2015

Dear Friends,

Sometimes, out of odd constructs emerge magnificent meanings.

Take the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona, or the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, or the Sydney Opera House… or this week’s Torah portion…

Our portion (Parashat Lech-L’cha, Genesis 12:1-17:27) commences with the odd phrasing, “Lech-l’cha mei’artzcha ~ Get yourself out of your country…” The text would be just as intelligible, if not more so, if it simply had stated, “Get out,” or “Go.” Thus, why, “Get yourself?”   What is added by the addition of “yourself”?

The question, and the construction, has been the subject of commentaries and inquiries for generations. Note how Rashi, our French Torah commentator par excellence, explains this issue. He indicates, “The word L’cha [yourself] denotes for your own benefit and for your own advantage. And there I shall make you a great nation; here you are not worthy to rear children.”

Thus, God revered Abraham, and God wanted Abraham, himself, to flourish. In Haran, the Old Country, Abraham could not thrive; he needed to leave that land behind and move to a land of new promise and possibility, a place where he could benefit, himself. Yes, Abraham was destined to be the father of our people, and of others, as well, but in this case, Rashi explains, God was concerned that Abraham would be distant from a place of idolatry and indignity, and Abraham, himself, would succeed. Abraham mattered, too.

People matter. Lives matter. Black lives matter. We matter.

So, too for us. The odd construct of the Torah verse comes to remind us that though the larger world has its own demands and expectations, we have our own privileged place in the world, no less. Each of us counts; each of us matters. Our lives and our concerns are not to be sacrificed on the altars of exigency, work pressures, comparisons to others, or more.

Thus, get yourself out… Yourself… matters!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Douglas Kohn