Parashat Lekh L'kha

For Your Own Good

Abraham's journey was for his own spiritual well-being.

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Why Be Jewish?

In this Torah reading, Abraham offers us insight into the question that is on the minds of so many communal leaders and of so many parents--"why be Jewish?"--by suggesting that the answer can be found in the context of his journey. Some suggest that a reading of the initial text of this portion would yield "go into yourself." Dig deeply into the self not before starting out on the road but while you are on it. That is part of its purpose. And while there, go beyond the self, beyond one's level of comfort, beyond what is familiar. Because it is only there that you will find the answers you seek.

While many talk about the collective future of the Jewish community against a background of a generation of individual entitlement, it is important to note that the Torah directs us to make decisions for our own sake, as steps along our own journey.

Parents, perhaps, understand this notion best. When making decisions regarding their children, they don't make decisions about what is best for the community. Rather, they make decisions about what is best for their children. And if we want those parents to include in those decisions "Why be Jewish?" or "Why be part of the Jewish community?" then we'd better provide them with substantive answers, irrespective of the religious backgrounds of these parents.

One reason might be so that we can continue the journey of Abraham in order to find the self.

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Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.