delllaroccaBy Roberto Della Rocca*

In the chapter 12 of Bereshit (Genesis) Jewish history begins with the command that the Eternal One gives to Abram: lech lechà, which translates to something like “Get yourself out,” but could also be taken as “go toward yourself,” i.e. in search of yourself. This process of identification, however, entails a kind of breaking away from the past, from hereditary prejudices, from unconscious social and cultural norms.

For this reason, the gradational manner with which the Torah indicates the situations that Abram must leave behind, “your land, the place where you were born, the house of your father…” are not listed in a logical order, but rather in an order of a different kind. “Go into yourself”: listen to the voice the comes to you from inside and not always to the one that reaches you from outside.

It is only through this process that Abram becomes Abraham, “father of many nations” (Bereshit 17:5), a true universalist.

*Roberto Della Rocca is a rabbi and the Director of the Education Department at the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. This article was translated from the Italian by Daniel Leisawitz, professor at Muhlenberg College (Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA) and his students.