Lech L’cha: We Are Not Expected to Complete the Work

Posted on November 4, 2022 by Rabbi Arnie Gluck

In this week’s parashah, the Jewish people is born with God’s call to Abraham “Lech l’cha, Go forth…go
forth to a land that I will show you.” God promises that Abraham will be the founder of a great nation. God will bless Abraham and make his name great, and he will a source of blessing to others.

Abraham was a pioneer, a pathbreaker, who charted a new course for humanity. He was the first to
recognize the unity of God and commit to walk in God’s ways by doing what is just and right. To
accomplish this, Abraham had to leave his native land, the place of his birth, and his father’s home. To
chart a new future, he had to break with the past. Or so it would seem from a reading of Genesis chapter

But a look at the end of chapter 11 presents a very different picture. There we read that it was not
Abraham who went forth from his native land. It was his father, Terach, who set out for the land of
Canaan. Why did he go? Was he called by God? We don’t know. What we do know is that something
moved him to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldeans and we are not told what that might have been. We
do know that he didn’t complete his journey to Canaan — that when he had come as far as Haran, he
settled there. Accompanied by Abraham and Sarah, and his grandson, Lot, Terach made it that far and
no further. Though he had set his sights on Canaan, his journey came to an end in Haran.

Such is life. Each generation does its part and leaves its mark. We inherit the fruits of the labor of those
who came before us, we add what we are able to achieve, and we bequeath the effort to our children and
to generations yet to come. We exist in a precious interlude between the past and the future, but we are
also part of a tapestry of time that is eternal. Our lives are part of the warp and woof of a dynamic process that binds the generations to one another. Our forebears live on through us, as we will live on through future generations.

Abraham didn’t break from his past. There was continuity, not rupture. Abraham continued the journey
begun by his father, just as we continue the paths of those who came before us — l’dor va-dor, from
generation to generation. As Ben Azzai taught in Pirkei Avot: We are not expected to complete the work.
We are called to do our part to build the world and prepare the way for those who will follow.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Arnie Gluck