D’var Torah: Parashat Lech L’cha

10 Oct
English: Reading of the Torah, Aish Synagogue,...

English: Reading of the Torah, Aish Synagogue, Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parashat Lech L’cha narrows further the focus of the book of Bereshit. We began with God’s creating of the world, and then focused on the specific creation of humans. We then zoom out to learn of the ten generations that stretch from Adam to Noah, before spending some time with Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives. From Noah to Avram we once again have a global perspective as the Torah informs us of the details of the ten generations in between them before finally settling on one family and then one couple, Avram and Sarai (I am deliberately excluding Lot). In reading the parasha, I found two small elements to be extremely personally significant, and I’d like to share those thoughts here.

Avram, as he is still called at the beginning of Lech L’cha, is 75 years old when he departs his home for the land that God will show him. Regardless of whether or not we think the ages in Bereshit are metaphorical or literal, the significance of his advanced age carries considerable personal relevance and resonance. In two short weeks I will be beginning my service in the IDF. Most soldiers, during their compulsory service, are between the ages of 18 and 22.  I am 27. I will be older than my fellow soldiers and older than the majority of my commanders. Yet I have (somewhat) chosen to uproot myself from my life as it is currently constructed, at an advanced (read: old for the army) age and join the fighting forces of the IDF. Clearly the differences between us are vast, but in my imagining of Avram’s experience, these weeks of anticipation have shed some light on what he might have been feeling. Overwhelmed with questions: is this decision correct? what is the cost? was there something better? what if it does not go as planned? what if I fail? what if I hate it? what if I like it? what will be? what is my role? Neither my questions nor Avram’s can possibly be answered for quite some time. Nonetheless, we are bound by a sense of mission and a drive to make a sacrifice of epic personal proportions for the sake of a goal that we hope is ultimately everlasting, the building and protecting of the Jewish people.

On a separate but related note, this week I had the distinct pleasure of attending a ceremony at the Kotel (Western Wall) where some very dear friends were being sworn into the Paratroopers Brigade. Every soldier, combat and non-combat swears his or her allegiance to the State of Israel and and The Army. The oath:

הנני נשבע(ת) ומתחייב(ת) בהן צדקי לשמור אמונים למדינת ישראל לחוקיה ולשלטונותיה המוסמכים, לקבל על עצמי ללא תנאי וללא סייג עול משמעתו של צבא הגנהנ לישראל, לציית לכל הפקודות וההוראות הניתנות על ידי המפקדים המוסמכים ולהקדיש את כל כוחותיי ואף להקריב את חיי להגנת המולדת ולחירות ישראל.

I swear and commit to maintain allegiance to the State of Israel, its laws, and its authorities, to accept upon myself unconditionally the discipline of the Israel Defense Forces, to obey all the orders and instructions given by authorized commanders, and to devote all my energies, and even sacrifice my life, for the protection of the homeland and the liberty of Israel.

Soldiers are issued their gun and a Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, soldiers of other religions can select the Koran, or Christian Bible, Athiests may swear on the weapon alone) on which they take the oath. With this combination, or even juxtaposition, of worldly weapon plus spiritual guide, the ceremony carries considerable significance, as the soldiers enter into a pact with the State of Israel. Similarly, Avram enters into a pact with God. Avram does God’s will, whilst God protects, blesses, and multiplies the offspring of Avram. For me, the centrality of any oath is the relationship that it creates, binding two parties together over common ground and collective interest. For the duration of any soldier’s service, and ideally for the remainder of their lives, they are permanently bound to each other and the State of Israel in a unique embrace, not unlike the intimate relationship that God and Avram share until Avram’s final days.

My bracha for all of us is that we are able to hear our call to duty, however it is manifested, no matter the stage in life, and that we are able to enter into deep, meaningful, and mutually beneficial relationships with each other, God, and The Land.

Shabbat shalom.

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