Parshat Lech L’cha begins a journey. It is not just the journey of a single individual, Abraham; nor is it just the journey of his family. The story that we begin this week, does not end this week or for many weeks to come. In fact, we won’t read the conclusion until next year during Simchat Torah.
The journey that begins in this week’s Torah portion is the journey of the Jewish people. Abraham has struggles he must face himself. Abraham’s family fights together, honoring their differences amongst their neighbors. But the journey, complete with its challenges, is one that over time becomes the challenge of an entire community; first the Israelites, and today the Jewish people. Lech L’cha is the beginning our people’s journey to knowing God and entering into a covenantal relationship with the Divine. While the story ends, the journey for the Jewish people is ongoing.
When parents discover that they have a child with unique needs, learning differences or physical challenges, they almost instantly know that the journey beginning is not their child’s alone, but a journey for the entire family. The challenge faced by too many families is the extension of that journey beyond themselves and into their community, synagogues, day schools and summer camps. Yes, there are challenges that can only be overcome by the individual facing them. Families are the first line of support, and their entire lives are often turned upside down as individual challenges become the challenges of an entire family. We see this time and time again.
Lech L’cha serves as our model for what needs to happen next. Abraham and his family overcome the challenges of their differences by creating community. They surround themselves with people who will go on their journey with them. They create a tribe; Abraham fathers a nation. Our families need their tribe; they need their communities to be more than just open to them on their journey. They need their synagogues, schools, and camps to not simply watch from the sidelines, but to become active participants in overcoming their challenges.
Lech L’cha is about an individual who is different, his family that stands by his side, and finally about the community created that transforms the individual journey into a communal one. My prayer is that all of our communities take the time to embrace individuals who are different – along with their families – to become a part of their journey, and in turn, welcome them into the sacred journey of Jewish life.
Rabbi Faith Cantor is Rabbi-Educator at Beth El Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland. Rabbi Cantor has had experience in traditional rabbinic duties of counseling people in coping with life challenges, working in youth departments, and in adult education. She joined Beth El in July 2011.