The Power of “To Go Forth”

God challenges Abram (later, named Abraham) to go forth from his native land to a land that God will show him. This is one of the great challenges of all time. What might God’s appeal to Abram mean to us?

To go forth to this new land may, in Hebrew, mean “to go for yourself” (this can lead to what you can become); it may mean “to go with yourself” (this can lead to finding your true self); or it may mean “to go by yourself” (this can lead to developing and exhibiting the courage of going it alone in a meritorious way).

In the Bible, specifically, we see powerful ways in which the response of Abram to this call plays out in his times. But, even more, our patriarch shows all descendants of faith, including us, remarkable effects of the power “to go forth” in all times, including:

1)  The emergence of a person who will contribute to family, people, and ultimately a society, that promotes the way of God;

2)  The departure from “the predictable, the unfree, delimited” to become a leader among people in a manner that transcends attachment purely to the material (the idols of any age) to be true to God and God’s expectations (Sacks);

3)  The start of an epic journey in search of God’s ways and truths – especially those grounded in justice, righteousness, and loving kindness;

4)   The move to responsibility and maturity in how we live our lives, especially as we leave the home of our parents;

5)   The discovery of new and better ways of fulfilling God’s will through taking on a higher level of service to God and our fellow men and women; and

6)  The taking on of a risk to do something in faith that is both right and bold.
Lech lecha! Go forth to the land God will show you, and you will be blessed.

The Beginning of Our Story

The Hebrew Bible begins in the beginning. But, the beginning of what?
The Text begins: “In the beginning, God created….” Some think this is our creation myth. Others think this is a religious person’s account of how the universe was physically created.
I don’t want to argue with either side of that dispute. Rather, I want to suggest that something more fundamental is going on here.
Let’s start with a more accurate translation of these first words: “At the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth,” God created light (which – interestingly – precedes the sun and moon), and soon thereafter created humankind.
In other words, after creating the world, God creates the light that will always remind us of the Divine presence, and then creates man and woman. We see very quickly that we are created in God’s image, that we are cared for by God, and that we are expected to live true to God’s ways.
So, just a few verses in, God creates human beings whose story takes up much Divine attention for the rest of the Text.
The rabbis pictured this beautifully when they asked us simply to look at the very first letter of the Bible – the Hebrew letter, bet. This letter is closed on all sides but one. It is wide open to all the text that follows from the beginning, just as we must live, fully attentive to the future and mindful of God’s hopes for us.