Go… Lech L’cha

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This week’s Torah portion is Lech L’cha. It is the story of Abraham (who begins as Abram in the portion) listening to God as he tells him: “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, 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 it shall be a blessing.” I love this portion of the Torah. To me it is a powerful call to wake up out of our complacency and make something of ourselves. I spent some time this morning reading different commentaries on this portion. One in particular stood out to me. You can read it in its entirety here. The author, Joel Lynn, explains that there are three ways to interpret the words Lech L’cha: Go for yourself, Go by yourself, Go to yourself. With each interpretation, the meaning of the word Lech  (go) changes. Lynn interprets these three in the following way:

  1. Go for yourself – Go away from this place because it is what is best for you as an individual. Abraham is breaking away from his father in this move, he is becoming more independent.
  2. Go by yourself – Another indication of a move to independence. Abraham takes his immediate family (and his nephew, Lot) but leaves behind everyone else.
  3. Go to yourself – Abraham leaves so that he can figure out who he is. This indicates a soul searching element to the story. In obeying God, Abraham is reinventing himself, realizing a new potential in himself (at 75 years old!).

That third one resonated with me, much as it did with the author. We live in interesting times right now. I think there is a fine balancing act that many of us play. We find ourselves with responsibilities and expectations placed on us that sometimes we find difficult to handle. We live in a world of instant gratification where mass media and retail culture tell us that we should be able to have what we want when we want it. “Reinvent Yourself” is a mantra that we hear and has come to mean a lack of permanency in occupation, relationships, dwelling places, even religions. I would argue that this is not the reinvention that Abraham experienced.

While Abraham had many difficult tests to overcome in his lifetime, the most important one is the first one we read about in the Torah: “Go to yourself.” Realize what your mission in life is. Recognize your potential. Become YOU. Without this, there would never have been a covenant, a circumcision, a binding of Isaac, or a founding of the Jewish people.

We are fortunate that Abraham’s journey led our people to prosper and multiply. Through Abraham’s journey we learn that we are here to help others and to be a blessing to others. I believe that if we work to recognize our potential with these words in mind, we cannot help but to make the world a better place.

Hillel once 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.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone approached the world in this way. The least we can do is our part in making the world a better place. How are you doing on this journey? Are you a blessing to those around you?

L’chi Lach – by Debbie Friedman

L’chi lach, to a land that I will show you
Lech l’cha, to a place you do not know
L’chi lach, on your journey I will bless you
And you shall be a blessing, l’chi lach

L’chi lach, and I shall make your name great
Lech l’cha, and all shall praise your name
L’chi lach, to the place that I will show you
L’sim-chat cha-yim. l’chi lach

++++++++ Announcements ++++++++

Thursday, October 26 – Hebrew Tutorials

Friday, October 27 – Gan K’tan at 10am; Final Friday Shabbat at 6:45 (followed by dinner)

Sunday, October 29th  – Religious School at 9am

Wednesday, November 1st – Whole Group Hebrew School from 6:30 to 8pm. All 4th – 7th grade students should come. There will be no Thursday tutorials this week.

Wednesday, November 1st – Teen OR from 6:30 to 8pm.

Friday, November 3rd – Gan K’tan at 10am;  Shabbat Services at 6:45pm – Grab your family and come!

Saturday, November 4th – TASTY Formal Dance from 7 to 10pm. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Be sure to RSVP (open to 8th -12th grade).

Saturday night, November 4th – Daylight Savings Time Ends – set your clocks back and hour

++++++++ Religious School Update ++++++++

This year, we split our tefillah time into two separate groups. This allows us to do lessons that are more appropriate for the ages of the kids. We also are trying to focus on specific prayers so that the kids get a better idea of what the prayer means. We want prayer to be meaningful for our students – that can only happen if they understand what they are praying!

Lower School Tefillah – This week, I had the pleasure of guiding our students through tefillah. With the younger kids (1st through 3rd), we talked about the Shema. We learned that it is a very important prayer and that it is surrounded by other prayers that thank God for creating the world, giving us the Torah, and protecting us. We then read a book called The Shema in the Mezuzah. It was about a village of people who were having difficulty listening to each other. In the end they learned that it is important to listen to others. Shema means “listen.” How can we do a better job of listening to each other?

Upper School Tefillah – With the older kids, we also looked at the Shema. This time we reviewed the prayers that we recite before it (Barchu, Yotzer Or, Ahavah Rabbah). We looked at how it is represented in our prayerbook and discussed why it looks so different. The students then shared how they feel and what they think when they hear the word Shema. We discussed why it is important as a motto for our people.

PreK/Kindergarten- I hope you all had a fun time at the zoo. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone this Sunday and asking them about the animals that they met!

Judaics – Our students in both Ashley and Erica’s classes are working through a unit on B’tzelem Elohim, learning about how we are made in the image of God. When we really think about that, it comes with some responsibility. Discuss with your student how being made in the image of God might effect the way that they behave. Should it? Why?

Special Topics – Barry’s Class – All parents of 5th and 6th graders should have received an email from Barry on Monday regarding the projects that your children are working on. Please make sure you read that email. We really want all parents to be here when the kids present their work! If you did not receive the email, please let me know.

Special Topics – Erica’s Class – The class “traveled” to Eilat and become marine biologists and discuss why the coral reefs are dying.  One reason is the chemicals from the sunscreen people use.  They recreated this effect by using pom poms for the coral and pouring baking soda on top then adding vinegar.  We will observe what happens.  Next week the class will talk about how to get the word out to warn people about the damage sunscreen is doing to the reef.

Hebrew – Karen has been working hard with our 4th and 5th grade students, building their knowledge of the alef bet and moving on to blending and word formation. Our 1st grade students are working to recognize letters.

A Note about Hebrew for 4-7th graders:  Please understand the importance of practice in developing Hebrew language skills and eventually mastering decoding. For our 5th and 6th grade students, they need to be practicing at least 1 hour per week (outside of tutorials) preferably alongside someone who also can read Hebrew (sibling, family member, friend). This does not have to be 1 hour in one setting, it can be 15 minutes in the car, before breakfast, etc. You will be absolutely amazed at the progress your child will make with this addition of practice time. For 7th grade students, they need to be practicing at least 45 minutes PER DAY. Again, this can be to and from soccer practice in the car, with the prayer recordings… If you need mp3 copies of the prayers to download, click here.

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