• Rabbi Rubanowitz

Lech-Lecha “HallahWine” Shabbos

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The Jewish Journey: America | KPBS

postcard shows Jewish Americans welcoming Jews immigrating to the US.

Are you an American Jew or a Jewish American? Of course this question applies to whatever country you find home-even Israel. The essential issue I am raising is what you see as primary in your definitive make-up: your commonality with others. Or your uniqueness?

Does this question even matter?

This question came up most recently in our TOWN HALL where we discussed the phenomena of Jewish families “trick or treating” and/or decking out their manses in seasonally frightening decor. Is this a reflection of a desire to cement our commonality with larger society, or is it seen by those who do it more as a concession, to pay homage to our “hosts” who have finally allowed us to “participate” in secular culture (a relatively new historical feature in our Diasporatic history)?

I think our Parasha hits this issue squarely on the head. Tell me what you think: Hashem commands Abram to Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.”

Being world travelers however, we all surely know that before you leave California, by any mode of travel, you first need to leave your home/neighborhood, then pass the outskirts of the city, and then finally reach the border and enter Oregon, Nevada, Arizona or Mexico-or of course Hawaii/Overseas. In short, the order of Hashem’s command to Abraham seems to be illogically reversed. First he is told to leave “California” (land), then “LA” (birthplace) and finally his “home” (father’s house). This seems counterintuitive.

Unless you accept this idea: Hashem is hinting at us as to what a Torah-true outlook on how to view our “definitive” makeup vis a vis our relationship with the world at large. Obviously, outer layers and external clothing are what we first peel off when we seek to discover the inner. The less “core” layer is on the outside. The “seed”, the essence is often deep within. But what is our human “essence” and what is closer to our external packaging? 

Teaches G-d: “Abraham, I am sending you out and away from your place origin, to discover -and have the world discover-the true you. I want you to peel away the layers until the true and real you is revealed. You are a citizen of the world, yes. You are a human being and you share that commonality with all of society. Yet that commonality is part of your packaging. Your outer layer. There is more to you than your bond with fellow men however. You come from a certain part of the world, with a certain flavor, attitude, orientation, environment. That is your next layer-your birthplace. You share a commonality with them too…but that is also external to the real you. Closer to the real you Abraham-is your home. The commonality you share with your parents is even closer to your essence, a bit deeper under the layers, perhaps harder to peel off. But when you get to that, ah… when you finally peel through that layer, you may notice your true essence, your soul, your core, your mission”.

As you contemplate this idea, ask yourself again-“what is my core”? if you had to begin to peel off your layers. If Hashem commanded you to “leave your place and go on”-wat would come off first? What makes us who we are? Our humanism? Our American Citizenship? Our LA/Venice/Hollywood/New york/Seattle/Paris/even Jerusalem residence? Our parents’ ideologies? Or our soul. Our Neshama. Our connection to the source, our singular mission as shaped by the individual blessings Hashem gave each and every one of us, and the Heritage we hold in our bones…

So there it is: I gave you something frightening to think about this end- of- October Shabbos. Go Forth My Friends-Lech Lcha!.. and enjoy a blissful soul-revealing Shabbat Kodesh!

Shalom Rubanowitz

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