Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )
This week's Torah portion introduces us to Abraham, the first Jew. Until now, the Torah's messages have been universal messages, relevant for all of mankind. But now the messages are more specific and unique to the Jewish people, beginning with God's first communication to Abraham.
The Torah is not a history book; it is our instruction manual for living. So if the Torah tells us that God communicated with Abraham, it means that God is sending a message to each and every one of us.
So what is God's first command to Abraham and in essence, God's first command to every Jew? God tells Abraham: "Go to you, from your land, your birthplace and your father's home to the land which I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).
At first glance, this is hard to understand. What does God mean by, "go to you"?
God is telling Abraham to leave behind the influences that have shaped his value system: his land - his society; his birthplace - his peer group; his father's home - his family. God says to Abraham: Don't allow these influences to determine your beliefs in life. Don't allow yourself to be a simple product of your environment, rather: "Go to you." Go to yourself, Abraham. Look deep inside and find out who you are. And don't let anyone else tell you. Trust yourself, because ultimately that is all you have to trust.
Truth, God tells Abraham, is to be found within every one of us. But we are usually so busy seeking it from without, that we don't notice what is right in front of our eyes, within.
This is a shocking philosophy for a religion to give its adherents, let alone as its first command. Forget what your family tell you to be true. Forget what your friends say. Forget what society says is true. Look inside yourself, and trust what you know to be true.
Let me be clear: Judaism is not saying that everyone has his own truth - quite the opposite. It is saying that when human beings look inside themselves, they all find the same truth, for truth transcends individual minds and bodies.
Judaism can only say this if it is supremely confident that for a person who looks inside with honesty and a sense of calm, the truth he will find will be the same truth that Judaism teaches.
Now that's a religion I like!