Jews march proudly with the Israeli flag at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp in Poland. (AP/Alik Keplicz) (AP/Alik Keplicz)
Holocaust march

Abraham was 75 years old when he was told to leave his home. Most people of that age would probably decline the offer to pick up and go, but not Abraham.

This week’s Torah portion is “Lech Lecha” (Genesis 12:1-17:27.), which, with some poetic license, means: “Get packing!”

That’s exactly what God says to Abraham. “Get packing! You don’t belong here in the immoral and idolatrous environment of Haran. Your full potential can only be actualized in the place where you and your descendants truly belong: The Land of Israel.” Abraham wastes no time and promptly contacts his travel agent, arranges the needed visas, and makes a dash for the border.

Abraham was 75 years old when he was told to leave his home. Most people of that age would probably decline the offer to pick up and go, but not Abraham. Not only that – but God did not reveal to Abraham where he was going! It didn’t matter though. Abraham knew that God had a plan and that he was a big part of it. Here’s the REALLY amazing part of it all: Abraham did not travel alone. His excitement, enthusiasm, and dedication to what he believed in, influenced many others to join him! They joined Abraham and his new religion. The Jewish people had officially begun.

The famous philosopher and poet, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi was another such “Abraham” who picked up and left it all in order to live in the Land of Israel. He was fifty years old when he decided to make Aliya. El Al still wasn’t around yet, so he too made the difficult journey on foot. There were many dangers along the way as he waded his way through Christian and Islamic Spain, neither of which was too eager to assist a Jew on his way to the land of Israel. Eventually, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi made it to Jerusalem where he bowed down, removed his shoes, and kissed the holy soil. Legend has it that moments later he was killed by an Arab or Turkish soldier who trampled him with his horse. Although inexplicably tragic – he truly did fulfill his life’s dream.

And what about you? What are you waiting for? Thank God things are different today and Jews enjoy full equality and freedom in most of the Western World. Jews don’t need to run away from anything anymore. Nevertheless, God’s message to Abraham applies to all of us today just as it applied to him then. A Jew will never maximize his full potential in the Diaspora. When you live in the Diaspora, you watch Jewish history unfold – but when you live in Israel – you make Jewish history unfold. No, we don’t have to run away from anything anymore, but the Torah portion of Lech Lecha should have us thinking about running TOWARDS something. A better life. A life among your people. A life where Jewish holidays are the national holidays. A life where kosher food is readily available. A life where the sweetness and peacefulness of Shabbat can be felt.

Lech Lecha. Get Packing! Come Home!

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel