And You Shall Be a Blessing by Gevura Davis
Love. Falling in love. A one-time deal with your spouse? Absolutely not! One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was that falling in love needs to be a continual process of renewal, over and over again.
The excitement, the emotion, the attraction, the “all I want is more of THIS” feeling. I don’t believe we arbitrarily “fall” into love, I think it’s something we build, and we need to build it in lots of ways, lots of times to keep a marriage passionate and exciting.
The same is true of our relationship with Judaism. The first time I fell in love with Judaism was when I was a 17-year-old counselor at Camp Coleman, a Reform Jewish summer camp in the idyllic Appalachian Mountains. Our song leaders inspired us with soulful tunes at services each evening by the clear lake, nestled in green trees, a sky full of quickly appearing stars. There we sat and swayed and sang, campers and counselors with arms linked like unbreakable chains and a spirit of discovery and acceptance. In the stillness and beauty, I began to quiet the distracting voices of the facts of life and listen to the voice of spirituality and my desire for understanding and belonging.
Each year when we get to this week’s Torah portion of Lech Lecha, I think of one of those camp songs and I fall in love with Judaism again. Debbie Friedman, a trailblazer of Jewish music, brought meaning and inspiration to the lines of this week’s Torah portion. At this time, each year, I contemplate all of the ways Judaism has enriched my life since those summer days at camp, when I made a resolution to discover more about what Judaism means.
The first human being to embark on this spiritual odyssey and fall in love Judaism was our forefather Abraham. He looked around at the wonder, intricacy and beauty of the natural world and he deduced that it must have an All-Loving and All-Powerful Creator, and that Creator must have a design and plan how humanity can live life fully and beautifully. What made Abraham and his wife, Sarah, unique was their desire to share and spread this love of G-d to all people and inspire others toward a life of meaning and purpose.
Let’s contemplate the opening words of this week’s parsha: “Lech lecha (Go for yourself).” The Torah does not just say “Go,” but rather “Go for yourself.” Why does the Torah emphasize that it is for “yourself?” Abraham is setting out on the great mission to spread Judaism into the world. We learn an important principle, that observing and being in involved in Judaism helps a person fulfill their potential. Although the goal of Judaism is to help refine people into becoming more giving, more kind, more disciplined, more charitable, more discerning, more wise, which ultimately makes for a better society, G-d is telling us that this journey is really for us as individuals.
The lyrics to the song echo down through my memory.
“Lech Lecha … To a place that I will show you.” Although it might seem foreign and unfamiliar, it is G-d who guides all spiritual journeys and ultimately helps us reach our destination.
“Lech Lecha …To a place you do not know.” G-d instructs Abraham to leave his home, his family and his people and embark on an incredible journey of discovery. One might think G-d was punishing Abraham. After all, He tells him to leave everything familiar, all he has ever known, and head off into the great unknown. Sometimes it can be scary to embark on a spiritual journey where we don’t know where the road will lead us. But G-d assures Abraham that he will be blessed with all the tools he needs, despite the challenges of leaving familiar territory.
“Lech Lecha … On your journey I will bless you.” When we embark on a journey of self-discovery, we are not alone. G-d is blessing us to succeed.
“Lech Lecha … And you shall be a blessing.” When a person sets out to discover who their soul yearns to be, they become a blessing. Abraham’s huge task was to create a movement of awareness of G-d and spirituality. The prerequisite for this holy work, was for him to first discover who he was. When we succeed in our spiritual goals, we become a great light that shines onto others.
I think the reason I fall in love with Judaism when I study this week’s parsha is because it is reconnecting with the journey of self-discovery I was first inspired to.
The spiritual activist Marianne Williamson famously said, “We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Abraham and Sarah’s sacred job was to make manifest the glory of G-d in this world. To do that, they had to set out on their own spiritual journey. When we do that “for ourselves,” we are able to fall in love with Judaism over and over again.
I want to bless each one of you with the ability to “go for yourself” and rediscover what it is you love about Judaism. When we are able to connect with that beauty, we are able to spread it to our families and communities.
Gevura Davis is an educator who currently works as the Director of Women, Youth, and Family Division of The Etz Chaim Center in Elkins Park outside of Philadelphia. She recently moved from Kansas City with her husband and five children.