A revolution of compassion

Lekh L’kha (Get Yourself Out) B’resheet/Genesis 12:1-17:27

Haftorah Readings: Isaiah 40:27-41:16

In this Torah portion we are introduced to Avram. As many as 4.1 billion people of different faiths count him as one of their founders. I want us to look at his life in this portion today and try to understand what drove him in his walk with G-d.


Let me begin by saying he was a man who was a non-conformist. He did not do what others were doing. He listened to the still small voice of G-d and followed Him, not the world around him. When we look at verse 12:1 we see exactly what G-d called on him to leave. “Get out from your country and from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Look at that sentence closely. G-d was calling him to leave his land, his birthplace, his father’s house and follow G-d. So, in effect G-d was calling him to leave everything that might draw him into conforming.

People have a natural drive to fit in, to conform to the influences around them. This begins early in life. As we look around us, fashion, food, our likes and dislikes are usually based on society and the culture around us. G-d was taking Avram out of all those influences. G-d was saying to him, “I want you to be different, not just for the sake of being different, but for the sake of showing a whole new way of living, a walk of faith. A faith that will not be caught up in power and the worship of power. This worship of power was what idol worship promoted. Wars over the centuries have been fought over who could force their gods on other people. G-d was saying to Avram, I want you to hear Me. I want you to follow Me and to teach your children to follow Me, to follow the way of the L-rd by doing what is right and just. (Genesis 18:19)

This was a completely new idea in Avram’s world. Every nation had its own god. Those gods represented power. Ra was that for the Egyptians. Baal was that for the Canaanites, Chemosh for the Moabites, and Zeus for the Greeks. In our day, terrorists and rogue states look to missiles, bombs and violence to project their ideas on other people. Avram was to start a revolution that was not built on power but on the honor of people, people created in the image and likeness of G-d. This would be a world built on compassion and justice.

In Hebrew Avram was called, the ivri, basically translated as the other, the other side. I think G-d is still calling His people, calling us, to be that “other” in our world. I read a sentence this week that I think fits here. “Dead fish go with the flow, live fish swim against the current.” We are to be live fish. We are to be people whose lives are built on what G-d says, what He has called us to be. So in some ways we are to apply Genesis 12:1 to our lives as well.

However, what happens when we encounter bumps along the way that G-d has called us to walk. This brings me to my question for this week. As soon as Avram arrived in the Land he and his family experienced a severe famine and had to leave and go to Egypt to find food. We read in Genesis 12:10-20 the things that happened to him in Egypt. Have any of you experienced anything similar in your own life of faith? The question that must have come to Avram and to us is, why has this happened? I am just doing what G-d asked and now there is a famine.

Let me share an incident in my life that has been an example for Jean and me of this very point. In the early 70’s both Jean and I came to the place of dedicating ourselves to fully follow G-d’s plan for us, as we saw it. We volunteered to serve with the Southern Baptist as missionaries and traveled to Bangladesh to do what we believed He had called us to do. Within one year I had hit rock bottom. The unrelenting poverty and sickness was overwhelming to me. During that year there were two military take overs of the government. We had to sleep on the floor at night because of the fighting going on around us and the possibility of bullets coming through the windows where we were living.

After a year, I felt we had to leave and return to the USA or risk having a breakdown. I remember feeling like I had failed G-d. He had called us and I couldn’t do it. Where was He? Why did He allow this to happen?

After being back in America for two years and spending a lot of time with a counselor, both Jean and I felt that G-d was not finished with us. He was still there. He still loved us and had a place for us. With in another year we were on the way to Israel and as the saying goes, the rest is history. We were so much more equipped in every way, to deal with our time in Israel. All this helped us to deal with Bangladesh and what happened there. Going was not a mistake but actually a time of maturing in our faith and life. 

In fact, the third year we were in Israel a young couple came to work with the Baptist in Jerusalem. The husband went through a very dark time. He was too embarrassed to share with anyone that he was so distraught he was considering suicide. He felt he had failed G-d.  One day he came to my office and I could see he was not in a good place.  I told him my story of Bangladesh and he opened up and told me he had, the night before, sat in the bathroom floor with a knife wanting to end it all. We talked many times in the next few months.  He was able to return to the states and had a very successful career as a college professor.  I realized G-d does not make a mistake. Nothing happens to us without His will and permission. We do not live a life of chance or luck. In fact I refuse to use that word anymore. 

G-d took Avram to Egypt for a purpose. As we continue on reading and looking at Avram’s life, G-d was always there. He never left him. He never leaves us. Sometimes we may walk through the valley of death but He is with us. He has a purpose. (Psalms 23:4) Bless each of you this week. May G-d Almighty give you peace. Trust Him. He is there.