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Home » Lech L'cha

Lech Lecha: The True You

Submitted by on November 4, 2008 – 10:10 pmNo Comment | 2,767 views

Multiple Roles

Countless hours and dollars are spent in therapy by people seeking themselves. I know someone who is a parent of three, a devoted husband, successful doctor, captain of his football team, coach of his son’s little league team, friend of his social circle and if that is not enough, he is also a perpetual child in the eyes of his parents. His response to any given situation largely depends on its social context. The aggressive captain responds differently from the loving husband. His response as a parent is different from his response as a friend. The professional doctor is different from the perpetual child. He is often plagued by the question, who am I? What is my internal response to any given situation?

We should all ask that question. Somewhere beneath the vestments I wear and the roles I play lurks the real me, what does he look like? Who is he?

This is precisely what G-d told Abraham. “Go to yourself, from your country, your birthplace and your father’s home, to the land that I will show you.” (1) First Abraham was instructed to leave his country. Our characters are shaped by the climate and atmosphere of the country we live in. Then he was told to leave his birthplace. Our characters are further conditioned by the habits, ideas and culture of our neighborhoods. Finally he was told to leave his parents’ home. The third and most critical mold of our character is the values and ethics of our parents’ home. The experiences of our youth and the principles on which we were raised are deeply imprinted in our psyche. They are the powerful forces that shape the person we are destined to become. Yet, G-d told Abraham, “Go to yourself,” leave those influences behind and find yourself. Leave your country, leave your birthplace, leave your parents’ home and find out who you are. (2)

Seeking Self

Embarking on a hunt for selfhood sounds intriguing,the true you - innerstream but it is also misleading. We are not going to find ourselves by shedding the influences of our youth or the roles we play as adults. The real you is not divorced from the roles that you play. You are the parent and you are the child, you are the coach and you are the spouse. You are not operating out of someone else’s mind when you step into those roles. The trick is to hold on to who we are even as we play our role so that our roles will reflect our personality, rather than define it.

The same holds true for the influences of our youth. It is not wrong to be influenced by others, it is only wrong to allow such influences to define who we are. G-d did not tell Abraham to, “Go from your country,” which would have meant, abandon the influences of your youth. G-d said, “Go to yourself from your country,” which means find yourself within the person who was influenced by your country. Prevent your country’s influence from defining you. Instead, define for yourself how to best use the habits and values you absorbed in your native country.

Embracing Our Past

Total abandon of our past is unrealistic. We cannot erase the experiences of our youth; they are the cast in which our characters are molded. We can no more run away from them than we can run from ourselves.  We cannot change our past; we can either become prisoner to it or we can put it to use in the service of our true selves.

For example, in our youth we may have been taught to be neat and clean up after ourselves, but an overzealous parent may have imparted this value a little too strongly and inadvertently created a compulsive neat freak. Such people, frustrated at their inhibiting compulsion and convinced that their desire for neatness is not reflective who they are, but of whom their parents wanted them to be, often work to uproot the inclination, but this strategy is neither successful nor wise. We cannot uproot a long ingrained inclination without uprooting a part of ourselves. A better strategy is to embrace the inclination toward being neat while working our way out of its inhibiting vise. This way we draft our past into the service of our true nature without become imprisoned by it.

This is the meaning of the words “Go to yourself from your country, birthplace and parent’s home.” Don’t throw away everything you learned in your parent’s home and everything you picked up in your birthplace and country. On the contrary draft them into the service of helping you find your true voice. Salvage all the positive elements of your past even as you discard the negative ones.

Point of Equilibrium

In seeking our true selves we must always remember that G-d’s purpose in creating us was so that we could serve Him. Thus, anything related to the service of G-d is reflective of our truest and deepest selves.  This is why G-d told Abraham to “[Go] to the land that I will show you. “

The Holy Land is conducive to a holy lifestyle; to the study of G-d’s Torah and the observance of His commandments. Adam was created in Israel because the essence of humanity is our ability to serve G-d. When we connect with G-d through His Torah and learn to serve Him through His commandments then we have found our true voice and give expression to our truest selves.

“The land that I will show you,” can be treated as, the land where I will show . . . you – I will show you who you really are. The part of our lives that is connected with G-d is who we really are; it is our point of origin and true selves. Everything else flows from this seminal point.



  • Genesis 12: 1.
  • See Kli Yakar’s commentary to Genesis 12: 1.


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