The following D’var Torah was prepared by Todd Williamson, a member of The Davis Academy faculty. It was shared at one of our weekly Middle School tefilah services in honor of a student that is becoming bat mitzvah this Shabbat and is published here with his permission. Todd has asked me to note that he did not write this D’var Torah expecting that it would be “published” on a blog and therefore did not include citations. He notes that Bruce Feiler’s work on Abraham was very influential in his thinking along with many additional resources.
In addition to being a wonderful D’var Torah in its own right, this post demonstrates part of the unique potential within a Jewish Day School such as The Davis Academy. Consider the following: a D’var Torah lovingly and thoughtfully prepared by a non-Jewish faculty member, presented in front of several hundred early adolescent Jewish kids– an exchange of ideas characterized by great thoughtfulness, tolerance, and pluralism. Some critics argue that Jewish day schools are not diverse. I’d be eager to hear about other Jewish organizations where it would be commonplace for profound words of Torah to be shared by someone of a different faith. The exchange of ideas, the diversity of life experience, and the sharing of Torah that this guest post reflects is truly unique. Todd can be followed on Twitter @Bookman30022. When Todd isn’t writing Divrei Torah he is immersed in technology, teaching, and literature.
Lech Lecha: Genesis 12: 1: 17-27
God instructs Abram to leave his father’s house and set off to the “Promised land” G_d will reveal to him. G_d promises Abram that this land will be set aside for him and his descendants and that Abram will be the father of a great nation. Abram, Sarai and Lot(Abram’s nephew) travel to Canaan.
A famine in Canaan forces Abram to seek provisions in Egypt where Abram declares Sarai to be his sister, not his wife. Abram and his family receive good fortune, while Pharaoh receives plagues. Pharaoh realizes Abram’s deception and sends Abram, his wife and their possessions out of Egypt.
Abram and Lot separate and live separate lives and soon Lot is taken away as a hostage in a tribal war. Abram and his men free Lot from his captors and G_d reappears to Abram and promises progeny and land. Abram confirms G_d’s covenant and then G_d fortells the Israelite bondage in Egypt. During this time Sarai gives her handmaid, Hagar, to Abram and she bears Abram a son, Ishmael.
G_d once again repeats his covenant to Abram, but requires all males to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant. Upon this sign, G_d changes Abram and Sarai names to Abraham and Sarah.
Thousands of years ago Abram was called by G_d, just like you are being called to the Torah this Shabbat. You are a direct lineage to Abraham: a memory you should be proud to share with our ancestor. One thing we can certainly learn from Abraham is that G_d listens when we as humans yearn, or cry out for his guidance. God hears Abraham’s plea for help, but we first must believe G_d. Abraham does not believe in God, he believes God. This is a huge difference, so I’ll say it again: Abraham does not believe in God, he believes God and thus fulfills the covenant promised to him and his descendants, which leads to the original Kehillah of Jews on Earth
Could you follow in Abraham’s footsteps, could you have the faith he had to leave his father’s home and follow G_d’s instructions? Despite being a believer, I’m not sure if I could…so perhaps I don’t really have the gift of faith: I certainly know I don’t have the faith Abraham had, but I don’t have to: Abraham had faith for all of us.
The story of Lech Lecha beckons us, as humans and as Jews, to take risks and travel into the unknown in pursuit of our true purposes in life. It encourages us to listen to our intuitions, to pay attention to the inner voice that more often directs our heart than our head. It teaches us that we may have to leave what we know and move away from areas of comfort, in order to develop our potential. One day, years down the road, you too, like Abraham will leave your father’s home: which invariably will bring you closer to your family you just left behind. Like Abraham, if we hear the call, we must remember to put our faith in that inner voice that guides us along the way and trust in our strength, ability, creativity and talents that when we make the journey, we too, may find our own personal “promised land” and that you personally will become the wonderful, brilliant and beautiful young lady you are destined to become.
G-d promised Abraham, and in turn promised us, that, if we become leaders and initiators, our initial efforts will never be forgotten. Have faith and believe G-d and you too, just like Abraham will always be remembered as a blessing!
On behalf of the students, faculty and staff of The Davis Academy, we wish you Mazel Tov.