The Two “Lech Lecha”
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
Parashat Lech Lecha begins with the following verse: “And the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). The words translated here as “go forth” are the ones that give its name to this parasha, lech lecha. These Hebrew words can literally be translated as “go to you,” or “go to yourself.” This is not a common expression in the Torah; in fact, it appears only twice in the entire book, both in the book of Genesis. The first time, in our parasha, this expression is said to Abraham by God to command him to go to the Land of Israel. The second time (Genesis 22:2), this expression is also said to Abraham by God, but this time to command him to go to the Land of Moriah and offer Isaac, Abraham’s son, as a sacrifice. The first time God commands Abraham to go to the land of Israel, while the second time He commands Abraham to go to Mount Moriah, where the Temple of Jerusalem will be built in the future.
There is a Midrash in Bereshit Raba (chapter 55) about the two times that the expression lech lecha appears in the Torah. The rabbis wonder what is the meaning of the name Moriah. One rabbi says it means hora’a, which means instruction, or deciding on Jewish legal matters. Another rabbi says it means yir’ah, fear of God. Another rabbi says ora, which means a place of light coming from God. Finally, another rabbi says morah, which means a place where a fear of God dwells.
Rabbi David Golinkin, president of The Schechter Institutes Inc. in Jerusalem, explained in a recent article about parashat Lech Lecha, that the lech lecha of Genesis chapter 12 represents Zionism and the love of the land of Israel, while the lech lecha of Genesis chapter 22 represents the love of God and the Jewish tradition.
The fact that the love for the land of Israel and the love for Judaism and God are linked by the same unique Hebrew expression lech lecha, in my opinion, indicates that these Jewish values should be given equal importance. Judaism and Zionism should go hand by hand.
As Rabbi Golinkin wrote, “Zionism without Judaism is only half of the story. Judaism without Zionism is also only half of the story. We must teach our children both the lech lecha of Zionism and Judaism.” As Conservative Jews in the Diaspora, we have to dedicate ourselves to Jewish and Zionist values at the same time, educating our children and adults alike in the love of the Jewish tradition and the love for Israel. We must strongly support the State of Israel while we live our modern Jewish life with passion and pride.
Lech Lecha, let us go on with our love and dedication for Judaism and the State of Israel.