By Mara Koven-Gelman
One of the most beautiful songs is Debbie Friedman’s “L’chi Lach” based on this weekly Parashat Lech Lecha. What Hebrew school or Jewish camp has not taught children this melodic reminder of having faith in Hashem to make the Jewish people into a great nation?
Lech Lecha continues building the foundation for Jewish peoplehood. G-d first commands Abram (later re-named Abraham) to “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation…” (The words in Debbie Friedman’s song).
Nowhere in the Torah do we learn why Abram is chosen, but Jewish tradition assumes that it is his embracing of ethical monotheism (one G-d, no idols).
As a child, he smashed the idols in his father’s idol factory. He put the ax he used in the remaining idol’s hand. Answering his father’s outrage, he fabricated a story saying the larger idol smashed the others out of anger. His father replied, saying, “You know the idols can’t move.” Abram answered, “Why should we worship idols that can’t save themselves, we are clearly superior to them.” Abram was a critical thinker and imbued with an ethical compass. Perhaps that is why G-d says in the opening verse, “I will take you from your father’s house,” i.e. I will take you away from idol worship and infanticide (common in the day).
We can apply this to our lives today. Mike Steklof beautifully reminded us in last week’s Jewish Thought that Noah and Abram needed to have faith in G-d’s plan, just as we need to have faith that we will endure living through this pandemic. In addition, this week, we learn that along with faith, we must use our free will to do the right thing.
The right thing can be in our language, actions and thoughts. It can be embracing our fellow Jew, even if we disagree with their point of view.
This week doing the right thing is to be a smart, caring citizen in this American democracy. Use your free will and right to vote. In Erie County, you have until this Sunday November 1 at 6 p.m. to vote early or vote in person Tuesday November 3 from 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Find out more here. Follow Abraham and do the right thing.
Mara Koven-Gelman is the Director of Buffalo’s Jewish Community Relations Council.