From the Head of Jewish Life
This week’s Parashah, Lekh Lekha, as understood by our Rabbinic tradition, contains an iconic passage of smashing idols.
Avraham, the first Jew, hears the Divine voice to leave his parents’ house and to set out on his personal quest. For the Rabbis, Avraham is smashing his ancestral idols, abandoning beliefs that are false to him, seeking new vistas born of a new vision.
Today, we might say he is risking reaching out beyond the security and safety of convention and a fixed mindset to a world of uncertainty but possibility, making for and reflecting a growth mindset.
To be a Jew is to journey.
Commenting on these first and repeated words of God to Avraham, לך לך (lekh lekha) – “journey forth”, our Rabbis present us with a beautiful midrash (teaching).
And the Lord said to Avram: “Journey Forth”. Rabbi Berachyah said: “What did Avraham our father resemble?” A flask of fragrant myrrh, sealed tightly, lying in a corner; its fragrance could not be diffused. But, once it was moved about its fragrance was diffused. Thus, did the Holy One Blessed be He say to Avraham our father: “Move yourself from your settled places, so you may expand yourself”
Some of us hold tightly the lid upon our flask; not venturing from our corner, we hide our unique fragrance from the world, and from ourselves. Others might present a journeying forth, but it’s not our flask we venture to open nor our fragrance we would share.
Significantly, the words לך לך (lekh lekha) “journey forth” literally mean go to yourself. Yourself is not yet realized, it is that to which you must continuously journey and always arrive anew. The risk, then, is in not risking.
I often wonder how and when our students’ Projects of Understanding (POU) can be explorations in personal possibility and journeys of self-discovery? When, in our students’ learning, do they themselves become the “Project” for which they would risk certainty to experience growth? When is the end not the grade but the self? And, perhaps most importantly, how does the new understanding our students gain yield a diffusion of one’s personal fragrance so they may experience a true journeying forth?
“לך לך”…כל יהודי צריך ללך אל עצמו, אל שרשו
רב אהרון השני מקרלין
“Lekh Lekha”…Every Jew must journey forth to his very self, to his root being