Thursday, October 30, 2014

"For Yourself"

One of the arguments posed by those opposed to organized religion is that religion requires people to act mindlessly. Judaism, however, strongly encourages questioning, and  “Free Will” is an essential element of Jewish philosophy and Jewish life values. More than that, while Jewish life is built around the collective history of the Jewish people, living Jewishly is meant to enhance the life of each individual.

The emphasis on a person’s individual journey can be understood from the first of the Jewish patriarchs, Abraham. In Genesis 12, the words that God uses to instruct Abraham to journey to the Land of Canaan begin with the Hebrew phrase Lech Lecha. These two seemingly similar words are not related. The first word lech, is the imperative word “Go.” The second word is a possessive pronoun best defined as “For yourself.”  God instructs Abraham that the path he is to take is one that is for himself. In other words, it is for his own spiritual development and enrichment.

While this specific instruction was given to Abraham concerning his journey to the Promised Land, there is a well-known concept known among Jewish scholars that the actions of the fathers are a sign for the children. God’s command for Abraham to journey “for himself” is an imperative that echoes through the ages and calls upon each of Abraham’s descendants to embrace Jewish life for themselves.

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