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REACHING OUT TO G-D

by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

I've always been intrigued by the first words of this week's Torah portion: "Lech lecha-go for yourself." Why didn't Hashem, in his command to Abraham, simply say, "Lech-Go"? The second word is clearly superfluous.

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I've always been intrigued by the first words of this week's Torah portion: "Lech lecha-go for yourself." Why didn't Hashem, in his command to Abraham, simply say, "Lech-Go"? The second word is clearly superfluous.

Rashi, the preeminent Torah commentator, explains that the second word, lecha, means, "for yourself." In other words, Abrahams's daring move to Israel was, ultimately, for his own good. Similarly, all mitzvot are not primarily for the welfare of G-d, but for the benefit of the doer himself.

I want to suggest another meaning of this exceptional phrase, based on the structure of the words themselves. First, the Hebrew words lech and lecha look exactly alike in the Torah, where no vowels appear. They have the same numerical value, 50. And they can be read lach or lecha, meaning "for you," in either masculine or feminine gender.

This suggests that Hashem is explaining to Abraham an overall philosophy of the Torah system, as well as the interplay between Man and G-d. It is a 50-50 proposition, a sharing of rights and responsibilities, a give-and-take harmony that maintains perfect equilibrium. We have our tasks to perform, and Hashem has His; and we have our rights and entitlements, no less than G-d.

In a word, the union between the Jew and his Creator is a marriage: Built on love and respect, totally faithful, allowing for growth and spiritual bliss. We love Hashem, and He certainly loves us. We increase our holiness as we get closer to Him, but, He, too, is a "greater" G-d when the marriage is thriving.

Those who are devoid of faith believe that what we are and what we have is solely a function of our own efforts and abilities. And those who are perhaps too faithful believe that Hashem will take care of everything, without any contribution from us whatsoever. Both positions are flawed.

We cannot sit back and let Hashem do all the work, be it providing our livelihood or bringing the Messiah. Yet neither will we ever achieve anything significant without the hand of Hashem behind it. We do our share; Hashem does His.

Thus, Abraham makes a "Covenant Between the Parts" in this week's Torah portion, dividing his offerings in two. A flaming torch then passes in between the pieces. It is "between" our joint efforts that we arrive at our destination.

The math may be wrong, but the concept is sound, nonetheless: When each partner gives 50 percent, he receives a 100 percent return on his investment.

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Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana'ana, Israel. He is also the author of Shammes: Stories of Jewish Experience.

You are invited to read more Parshat Lech Lecha articles.

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