October 11, 2013
Dear Friends and Family,
It has been a while, but I am back! I love Parshas Lech Lecha. It is the story of Avraham, a trailblazer, a leader in his time and the father of many future nations (Av – Hamon – Goyim). Avraham is known for ability to pass the 10 tests in his life and also for his kindness and his outreach. This week the Jewish Nation lost one of the greatest Jewish Leaders of the past 50 years, Rav Ovadia Yosef was a brilliant Torah (Bible) and Halachic (Jewish Law) Scholar, Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel and he started his own political party. It is not just that the Sephardic world lost their Posek, but the whole Jewish world lost a leader and a trailblazer. This was shown by the over half a million people who came to his funeral.
The Parshah (Weekly Portion) starts out G-d appearing to Avraham and giving him the commandment and test of leaving behind his family and life in Charan to travel to an unknown land of which G-d will show him the way. I read an amazing Dvar Torah this week by Rabbi Jonathan Saks who explains this topic beautifully. Rabbi Saks says that what sets a true leader apart is his ability to not conform. Most people in the world do conform. G-d is saying “Leave your land” People adopt the standards and absorb the culture of the time and place in which they live. G-d deepens the test to “leave your birthplace”, people are influenced by friends and neighbors. To take it one step further, G-d says ”Leave your father’s house” because more deeply people still they are shaped by their parents and the family in which they grew up.
God is saying here to Abraham, I want you to be different. Not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of starting something new: a religion that will not worship power and the symbols of power. I want you, said God, to “teach your children and your household afterward to follow the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.”
Abraham is without doubt the most influential person who ever lived. Today he is claimed as the spiritual ancestor of 2.4 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims and 13 million Jews, more than half the people alive today. Yet he ruled no empire, commanded no great army, performed no miracles and proclaimed no prophecy. He is the supreme example in all of history of influence without power.
Why? Because he was prepared to be different. As the sages say, he was called ha-ivri, “the Hebrew,” because “all the world was on one side (be-ever echad) and he was on the other.” Leadership, as every leader knows, can be lonely. Yet you continue to do what you have to do because you know that the majority is not always right and conventional wisdom is not always wise. Dead fish go with the flow. Live fish swim against the current.
Avraham instilled this quality into his future nations with his first test of Lech Lecha. He chose not to conform, but to follow his beliefs. This ability made him the father of the Jewish Nation. A nation that throughout the centuries have has survived no matter what.
Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas and May we always have the ability to like Avraham be true leaders and do what is right.
ps. I am not saying that you have to leave your family to be a leader, ( because I love mine!) but in order to lead you must do things because you know inside they are right, not just because everyone else around you tells you it is.