Leaving home

Insights into Lech lecha.

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple,

 Raymond Apple
Raymond Apple


The Torah reading opens (Gen. 12:1) with God’s call to Avraham to leave his home behind and “take yourself to the land I shall show you”.

There is a metaphorical sense in which this call comes to every Jew. It says, “Give yourself a purpose; make your life into a task, and live in God’s way”.

What this means is to feel permeated and pulsated by God and Jewish identity.

It also says, “Make your life into a mission: spread the love and knowledge of God wherever you go”.

What this means is to raise the quality of society and make the world more messianic.

It’s not that everything in the less Godly parts of existence are evil and must be totally discarded, but they must be refined and enlisted in the service of God.

One of the great Jewish thinkers said a person much utilise their legs to carry them to the doing of good deeds, use their hands to fashion a nicer world, train their heart to love and care for other people, and school their mind to think noble thoughts and keep away from crass vulgarity.


Avraham’s nephew Lot plays a central role in this sidra.

The word Lot probably means a covering or veil (Isa. 25:7).

After reading the narrative of Lot’s poor judgment one actually wishes a veil could be drawn over the episode.

The Midrash recognises that Lot had affectionate feelings for his uncle but when the two separated, Lot gave way to greed and lust and abandoned religion.

He was hospitable but rather stupid and his careless invitation to visitors to have their way with his daughters does not redound to his credit.

His wife (Idit or Irit according to the Midrash) turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back and dawdled when she should have fled from the salty winds.

The sages say that she became salt as a punishment for feeding her guests salt, thus compromising the family’s tradition of hospitality.

Rabbinic tradition found very little to praise in the character of Lot and his wife.


Is there a deeper meaning to the sequence of words used at the beginning of the sidra, where our patriarch is told, “Leave your country, your kindred and your father’s house” (Gen. 12:1)?

There is a theory that is said to derive from the Zohar that the word “molad’t’cha”, which many versions translate “kindred”, actually denotes “your mother’s home”, from the root "y-l-d” which means to bear a child.

If this is correct, Abram is being told to leave his country and the home of both his mother and father.

Parting with one parent is hard: parting with both is unbearable. But what choice does a visionary have? If the Divine call draws him forward into a new destiny, he has no choice but to comply.

When a child has to leave home, parents are tempted to hold him or her back. The wise parent, however, knows that a child has to be allowed to grow up even if it means leaving home. The parent has to do some parallel growing up too.

Parents who yearn for their child to remain six for ever and ever, as in AA Milne’s poem “Now I am Six”, stunt their child’s growth and deprive the world of what the grown-up child might be able to contribute to civilisation.

Parents have to be able to let their child grow, and go.