One of the books that has helped me to understand social dynamics is called “The Games People Play” by Eric Berne. A significant part of this book speaks of specific patterns of behavior and interaction that take place between people as they move from being strangers to some deeper level of relationship. These patterns of behavior are culturally acceptable, and therefore easily recognizable when we see them taking place. One of the interesting things about these patterns is the awkwardness that seems to occur when one moves from one level of intimacy in a relationship to a deeper level of intimacy.
The same is true with our relationship with God. Conversation with God, what we call prayer, is in part speaking, and in part listening. And if we pay attention to it we will notice that our conversation with haShem takes us along very familiar, well traveled paths. While there is nothing wrong with that, if we are to move to deeper intimacy in our relationship God, we must endure that awkward moment when we are not sure of what to do or say.
This moment of awkwardness is almost always the result of what I call the “I thought I knew you” syndrome, and it is this problem that confronts our father Avraham in this parasha. The God Avraham knew was about to act in a way that was contrary to what Avraham knew of Him, and Avraham was stuck in one of those awkward moments.
In my congregation, B’nai Maccabim, we have a discussion of the weekly parasha at what we call “Torah Table”. While we usually examine a particular section, sometimes our discussion just goes wherever it goes. As a result, I usually spend time during the week going through the parasha looking for things that might come up in discussion. As I was doing this with Parashat Lech Lecha I came across two verses that piqued my interest, so if you will permit me I would like to share what I found with you.
In this week’s parasha we are introduced to Lot. Lot is Abraham’s nephew, and the text implies that Lot felt a deep connection to Uncle Abraham. This is nowhere more evident than in his decision to join his uncle, as Abraham sought to follow God’s command to leave his people, family, and home, and to go to the place that God showed him. So, we are told in Genesis 12:4, “And Lot went with him.” In this journey, just as Jacob would be forced to look to Egypt for succor during a famine, Abraham was forced to go to Egypt as well. Later, when Abraham left Egypt he went out with great wealth. “And Lot,” we are told again in Genesis 13:1, “went with him.” In the English these two statements seem the same, but the Hebrew shows us a subtle difference that has to do with how Lot saw his relationship with Abraham.
A Shabbat message by Rabbi Russ Resnik at Beth Shalom Congregation, Rancho Cucamonga, California, October 13. Russ covers the first chapter of Genesis and the final chapters of Revelation to show how Genesis sets the trajectory for God's relationship with humankind, Israel, and each one of us, and how we are responding today.