Messengers Among  Us
Lekh L'kha 
 

I have a confession to make: Over these past weeks, with the horrible news emerging from Israel I have found myself tuning out rather than tuning in. I have chosen to look away and bury myself in other pressing needs rather than truly connect with the newly emergent horror. There is a term that floats around the mental health world, used for caretakers who become burned out. It is called compassion fatigue. I imagine that wrapped up in that term is also the idea of hope fatigue, hatikvah fatigue, and even dream fatigue.

And yet, this past week several stories emerged that brought my head up out of the sand- stories of Arabs and Jews coming together in protest of the current wave of violence, eating together and singing together, expressing their solidarity with one another and their shared dreams for peace. I was awakened and re-inspired by the sparks of connection I witnessed. People simply connecting with one another for the sake of peace. Simply connecting.
 
I look into this week's Torah portion and I see Avram- a single man who receives a call from God- Lekh L'kha- Go forth and leave your land, your birthplace, your father's home and go to a place I will show you. Many of the Hasidic Masters translate this first phrase not as go forth, but rather, according to literal meaning of the words, Lekh- Go,  L'kha- to yourself. Go to yourself, to your deep inner truth. Leave the influences of your country, your home town, your culture, your family of origin and take a journey into the deep truth of your own heart. Walk with Me, and be pure. Follow the truth of your heart to an unknown place, free from external influences, where tzedek and mishpat , justice and righteousness will be your guides and Then you will become a blessing to the world.
 
And indeed Abraham does, eventually reveal these qualities of tzedek and mishpat in next week's parashah, when he welcomes the strangers into his home and defends the people of Sodom to God. But first, he must go through several trials in which "going to himself" means separating from his family members, in several rather disturbing passages.
 
In her book entitled Subversive Sequels in the Bible, Judy Klistner writes:
In his continuing efforts to distill God's ways; Abraham distances himself from potentially negative influences. Along with this, in a more extreme and somewhat disturbing manifestation of his singularity, Abraham's life is marked by a series of departures from his loved ones. With God's approval and sometimes with His active prodding, Abraham splits from his nephew Lot (Gen. 13:19), from his first-born son Ishmael and from Ishmael's mother Hagar (Gen. 21:14). Twice he sets in motion chains of events that lead to his separation from Sarah his wife... when Abraham claims that Sarah is not his wife , but his sister, he contributes to her abduction by foreign kings (Gen. 12:13-14, 20:2). Toward the end of Abraham's narrative, God orders the ultimate departure. He must sacrifice Isaac, the son who represents Abraham's future...(22:2) God frames Abraham's life with the words Lekh L'kha, which appear at the beginning of the journey when he must take leave of his past, and at its end when he receives the order to forfeit his future.
 
Klistner describes the events in this week's parashah as Avram's downward spiral in which his singular focus and purpose puts all of his family members at risk and in harm's way. Avram's concern for himself alone leads him to lie about Sarai, causing her abduction by Pharaoh, and his subsequent wealth. His wealth, then leads to the quarreling between his camp and that of his nephew Lot, causing them to separate. This places Lot in harm's way, where he is taken captive in a regional war, causing Avram to go to battle in order to free his nephew Lot.
 
Avram is successful and finally, amid all of this strife there appears a mysterious visitor. Just as Abraham is about to meet with the King of Sodom, there enters onto the stage, Malkitzedek- Priest of El Elyon- God on High, Konei shamayim va'aretz-Creator of heaven and earth.
Malkitzedek interrupts the political maneuvers about to unfold, and enters the scene with the word Barukh! Blessed- He gives Avram a blessing, saying Barukh Avram l'El Elyon, Konei shamayim va'aretz-Blessed be Avram of God on High, Maker of heaven and earth.He reminds Avram of his connection with the Source of Life. He brings bread and wine to this weary warrior. He is an agent of hesed-kindness and of blessing. He is also the first to describe God as El Elyon, Konei shamayim va-aretz. Malkitzedek whose name means King of Righteousness, appears and disappears in a flash. Through words and actions he brings Avram a message of spiritual fortification.
Remember who you are and remember the values of hesed-kindness, tzedek-righteousness and mishpat-justice. Like a traveling chiropractor, he seems to give Abraham a spiritual adjustment.
 
As soon as he leaves, the King of Sodom asks Avram to split the booty from the wars, to which Avram responds:
I swear to Adonai, EL Elyon- God on High, Konei shamaym va-aretz, Maker of heaven and earth, that I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap of what is yours... (Gen. 14:22).
 
Unlike when Avram left Egypt with booty acquired through the trials of his wife Sarai, now he acts with righteousness, and swears his decency by the God- El Elyon, Konei shayim va-aretz. He unmistakenly uses the language of Malkitzedek, to call upon the God of hesed, of kindness of justice and righteousness. He seems to be put back on track and and after this encounter, Avram will welcome his forthcoming guests with abundant hospitality and he later will argue with God to act with justice and compassion for the people of Sodom.
 
In several ways this story encapsulates one of the great challenges of living a spiritual life. Even more so, it captures the challenge of the Jewish people whose destiny it has been to be Ivrim- to be from the other side, to separate ourselves from the ills of the dominant culture. We too have been charged Lekh L'kha- Go to your Self- to your own heart of truth. Do not be seduced by the greed of the dominant culture. Pursue justice for all. And yet, the challenge of Avram remains with us, to NOT become so separate, so single-minded and focused on one truth, that we lose all sense of connection and responsibility to others, lest we lose our way and forget our ultimate purpose; to be agents of kindness and justice.
 
Torah makes a powerful statement by bringing Malkitzedek into the narrative at this point. He is specifically a foreign priest, a man of God who is not an Ivri like Avraham. He is a mysterious foreigner who brings a message of spiritual fortification to Avram when he needs it most.
 
Today and in this moment, we need to find and connect with the messengers from all spiritual paths, who share the common vision of a world made whole. Kindness and Justice are not only Jewish ideals. They are shared among our human brethren of all religions and all walks of life. Most importantly, we need one another now, for spiritual fortification, for support, for uplift and re-dedication during these challenging times.
 
And so I want to extend to you an invitation to come together with Rimon and the First Congregational Church of Stockbridge for an evening of interfaith prayer, for world healing led by myself and Pastor Brent Damrow on Wed.evening Nov. 4th, 7PM at the UCC of Stockbridge.
 
We all understand that our world is critically wounded and suffering. We need to join voices and vision in as many ways as we can imagine to bring healing and hope. We must strengthen one another to remember that human beings are also unimaginably creative , inspired, and loving.

We are blessed to have many spiritual messengers among us. Keep your eyes and ears open for them. They may appear and disappear in a moment. Tune your ears to messages of hope and transformation and you will see it and hear it. May we all be blessed to play some part in the great healing that is not only necessary but I believe, inevitable.

Seeds
Rimon, the Hebrew word for pomegranate, is symbolic of our mission to disperse the seeds of Jewish spirituality to transform and raise consciousness for the sake of healing and repairing our world. Visit us at: rimonberkshires.org

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