Oct 16, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Lekh Lekha
Did the Imahot (matriarchs) have a relationship with God?
This question has nagged at me of late, brought to the surface by the welcome feminist language of the new Mahzor Lev Shalom. Faced by the names of the Imahot staring at me from the page, I found myself confronting anew a question I have not revisited in some time: was Abraham’s God Sarah’s God too?Read More
Oct 23, 1993 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha
As my bar-mitzva parasha, Lech Lecha has always carried a special measure of meaning for me. It marks the beginning of Jewish history with a story of exile. “The Lord said to Abram, `Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you'”(Gen. 12:1). And so did the Schorsch family, millennia later in December of 1938 from Nazi Germany. I even bear the name of Abraham’s son Isaac, born in this same parasha. Yitzhak is a joyous name filled with hope and affirmation. It means “he shall laugh.” For Abraham, Yitzhak signified the capacity of having a child in old age in a strange land. For my parents, Yitzhak bespoke an act of defiance in dark times. Faith has the power to shape reality, as it is said of Abraham in our parasha: “And because he put his trust in the Lord, He reckoned it to his merit” (Gen. 15:6). In short, my bar-mitzva in 1948, some eight years after we arrived in America, linked my life forever with Lech Lecha.Read More
Oct 15, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha
Unlike Shabbat, circumcision is not a creation of the Jewish religious imagination. It was widely practiced in the ancient Near East, though not in Mesopotamia from where Abraham and his clan migrated. Many of the building blocks of the Torah are borrowed from surrounding cultures. The most notable example is the system of animal sacrifices as the preferred way to worship God. The synagogue, with verbal prayer based on a sacred book, is the true religious breakthrough of Judaism and not the tabernacle in the wilderness or the temple in Jerusalem. The originality of the Torah often lies in its inspired recycling of older religious materials. Adroit adaptation invests a common custom with new meaning that is often stunning.Read More
Oct 26, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha
My family did not leave Germany till December 1938, some five weeks after the Nazis had destroyed Hanover’s magnificent synagogue on Kristallnacht. My father, the last rabbi of this once flourishing community, endured ten harrowing days in Buchenwald. Once we had to get out, my father was determined to leave Europe as well. We came to the States in March 1940, after a stop in England, which my father used to study English. He had just turned 41.Read More
Nov 7, 1997 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Lekh Lekha
I was honored when Chancellor Schorsch asked me to fill in for him and write a d’var torah on Parashat Lech Lecha, because for this one week each year he and I are Landsmann. The word, in German or Yiddish, denotes compatriots, fellow countrymen. My own family ancestry traces back to Byelorussia, my grandparents hailing from Minsk and Pinsk. The Chancellor comes, as his readers surely know, from Germany. But each of us share a patrimony in this week’s Torah reading, for Parashat Lech Lecha was the bar mitzvah portion each of us chanted in our respective congregations all those many years ago.Read More
Oct 27, 2001 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Lekh Lekha
Parashat Lekh L’kha is the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and, by extension, with all future Israelite generations. The climax of this story is the mitzvah of circumcision. Few mitzvot in our tradition have elicited the enduring commitment and unwavering observance of the majority of our people as has the ritual of circumcision. Few mitzvot have yielded the intensity of emotion and fascination which pervades any brit milah.
Oct 31, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha
Our parasha opens like a thunderclap on a clear day. Since No·ah, the voice of God had not been heard by human ear. For ten generations the Torah records not a single instance of communication. Then, without forewarning, God explodes into Abraham’s life: “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1).” The course of history was about to be rerouted.Read More