Parshat Lech Lecha

Parshat Lech Lecha

Bereishit 12:1-3 (Robert Alter, trans.)

And the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and your birthplace and your father’s house to the land I will show you. And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and and those who damn you I will curse, and all the clans of the earth through you shall be blessed.”


Pesikta De-Rav Kahana

“In a day that offers an opportunity for goodness, then engage in goodness.” (Kohelet 7:14). R. Abba bar Kahana said: When a day for doing a good deed comes your way, do it at once, for it is written “In a day that offers an opportunity for goodness, then engage in goodness.” The verse goes on “And in day that has led you to do evil, consider”: that is, if you find yourself facing a day on which you have done evil, consider how best to repent, so as to be delivered from the evil of the Day [of Judgement].

  1. Huna said in the name of R. Yose: A change of name or a change of conduct can also avert a harsh decree. A change of name, as is shown by the instance of our Father Abraham. “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham.” (Bereishit 17:5). Abraham as Abram could not beget children, but when he was renamed Abraham, he could beget them. … 


And some say that a change of residence also can avert a harsh decree, as may be seen from what happened to our father Abraham. For after “The LORD said unto Abram: “Get thee out of thy country,” there follow directly, the words “And I will make thee into a great nation” (Bereishit 12:2)


Why did the Holy One create both Gehenna and the Garden of Eden (so close to each other and give equal space to each)? In order that one may borrow room from the other, (for when the righteous are more numerous then the Garden of Eden borrow room from Gehenna, and when the wicked are more numerous, Gehenna borrows room from the Garden of Eden). But then how much space is there between Gehenna and the Garden of Eden? R. Yohanan said: No more than the thickness of a wall. R. Hanina said: No more than the breadth of a hand. But the Rabbis said: The two are right next to each other.


The Rabbis are linking multiple aspects of Abraham’s and Sarah’s journey in Lech Lecha with the choice between good and bad deeds. Why? How is the journey to a new life, leaving one’s family similar to moral choices and consequences?


They close the midrash with a statement about how the Garden of Eden and Gehenna are separated by the thinnest boundary. What are they trying to say about our moral choices?