Lech Lecha: Changing Our Destiny
As things seem to be moving towards more chaos. It’s important for each of us to find ways to ground ourselves. Our ability to grow in our 8F’s: Faith, Family, Finances, Freedom, Friendships, Fitness, Fun, and Following provides the cushion for us to weather the storms of life. When we are capable of finding ways to improve our leadership skills, join with other leaders, and spread the message of faith and positivity, we can change our destiny.
We begin Parashat Lech Lecha with the words “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. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse him that curses you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you (Bereishit 12:1-3).”
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ
וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה
וַאֲבָֽרְכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה
G-d tells Avraham (Avram) to leave Charan, his homeland, and go to Eretz Yisrael. Avraham leaves with his wife, Sarah (Sarai), Lot (their nephew), and the people that they taught. What does it mean the people that they taught? Avraham and Sarah inspired people to serve G-d instead of serving idols. Avraham taught the men, while Sarah taught the women. Avraham and Sarah had influence. They recognized G-d and taught others to worship the G-d of the world. Rabbi Yochanan Zweig says that Avraham and Sarah focused on the potential for greatness within each individual. They taught others how to develop a relationship with G-d via libations and sacrifices. Avraham and Sarah led by example, instead of force and interacted with others in a positive way (The Infinity of Torah). We naturally resist being controlled as we can see from what is going on in our society today. We welcome the ability to rise to great heights.
According to Pirkei Avot, there is a path for people to choose to do the right thing. Doing the right thing is perceived by others as a beautiful way to act (Pirkei Avot 2:1). Our conduct ought to be in a manner that others wish to emulate. The gauge of our behavior is by two standards: whether we feel that we are doing the right thing, and whether it will be perceived by others as a beautiful way to act. Avraham and Sarah modeled a vision of greatness that other humans could also achieve.
Later in the Parasha G-d tells Avraham to look at the land. He will be blessed as the dust of the Earth. G-d establishes a covenant with Avraham and changes his name from Avram to Avraham (Bereishit 17:4-7).
אֲנִ֕י הִנֵּ֥ה בְרִיתִ֖י אִתָּ֑ךְ וְהָיִ֕יתָ לְאַ֖ב הֲמ֥וֹן גּוֹיִֽם
וְלֹא־יִקָּרֵ֥א ע֛וֹד אֶת־שִׁמְךָ֖ אַבְרָ֑ם וְהָיָ֤ה שִׁמְךָ֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם כִּ֛י אַב־הֲמ֥וֹן גּוֹיִ֖ם נְתַתִּֽיךָ
וְהִפְרֵתִ֤י אֹֽתְךָ֙ בִּמְאֹ֣ד מְאֹ֔ד וּנְתַתִּ֖יךָ לְגוֹיִ֑ם וּמְלָכִ֖ים מִמְּךָ֥ יֵצֵֽאוּ
וַהֲקִמֹתִ֨י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֜י בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֗ךָ וּבֵ֨ין זַרְעֲךָ֧ אַחֲרֶ֛יךָ לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם לִבְרִ֣ית עוֹלָ֑ם לִהְי֤וֹת לְךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶֽיךָ
Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe says that we can change our destiny through hard work, avoiding the pitfalls, prayer, and requesting mercy. Avraham followed these steps and merited a name change which changed his identity and led to a change in his destiny. When we also follow these steps, when we’re genuine, sincere, and heartfelt we can also change our destiny. We will no longer have the same limitations as before, though, we will still have limitations because none of us are perfect. After Avraham and Sarah’s names were changed, they merited to have a son, Yitzchak.
Avraham and Sarah are wonderful examples of leaders who exemplified Martin Luther King Jr’s quote “faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” They didn’t know what would happen to them when they left Charan. They had faith in G-d that things would work out. We ought to put our faith in G-d by working hard, avoiding the pitfalls, praying to G-d and requesting mercy. We can change our lives in the 8F’s: Faith, Family, Finances, Freedom, Friendships, Fitness, Fun, and Following, and we can change our destiny. May we merit to be blessed with the ability to grow in these areas in order for each of us to be the light that shines in the darkness!