30 October 2020
‘I will bless you … and in
you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed’
In the Jewish calendar, Shabbat Lech L’cha begins this evening (30 October 2020) and ends tomorrow evening (31 October 2020).
The name comes from Lech-Lecha, Lekh-Lekha, or Lech-L’cha (לֶךְ-לְךָ) – the Hebrew for ‘go!’ or ‘leave!,’ literally ‘go for you’ – the fifth and sixth words in the third weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It includes Genesis 12: 1 to 17: 27, and it tells the stories of God’s calling of Abram, later Abraham.
Abram and Sarai set out after the encounter with God, when Abram is told, ‘I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Genesis 12: 2-3, NRSVA).
First steps can set the tone and direction of our future, even when we are not setting out on the same physical journey or pilgrimage as those who have gone before us in faith. Like Abraham, we, too, must take a journey from the accident of who and where we are to who we wish to become and who God wishes us to be.
In the Talmud, Rabbi Meir instructs his readers to say at least 100 blessings each day. On Shabbat evening, it is traditional for parents to offer blessings to their children.
When parents bless their own children, they recall the merits of their ancestors. But they also express the hope that their children will be allowed to grow into their own blessings. Rabbi Sharon Forman says ‘we realise that being a blessing involves raising the mundane fact of our biological existence into something more sacred and meaningful.’
We can become blessings through the work we do and our relationships with others. Our hope is to bless and bring blessings to the people around us by embodying compassion, and engaging with the world justly, lovingly, and humbly (see Micah 6: 8).
Rabbi Rami Shapiro says our hope ‘is to be a blessing and a vehicle for blessing so that all life benefits from your life; and to embody a specific level on consciousness that embraces the world with justice, love, and humility.’
Hillel said, ‘What is hateful to you do not do to another. This is the whole of the Torah: all the rest is commentary. Now go and study it.’ The entire Torah is a guide to compassion to live it so that we become more just, loving, and humble.
We can become blessings too through our connection with God: ‘you will be a blessing’ (Genesis 12: 2).
And may those children who are blessed this evening be blessings to those who follow us in this journey and pilgrimage in life, and truly, may we each go forth and be a blessing: כן יהי רצון, Ken yihi ratzon.