Cantor Eyal Bitton shares a few thoughts on prayer and the parasha of the week.

The Hero’s Journey

2023-10-28 Parashat Lech-Lecha

Parashat Lech-Lecha offers a profound narrative of self-discovery, courage, and faith – themes that resonate deeply with the human experience. At its core, this portion represents the archetypal hero’s journey, where the protagonist, Abraham, embarks on a transformative quest, eventually finding purpose and overcoming monumental challenges. As we explore this ancient tale, we discover parallels to a prayer in the Friday evening and Saturday morning liturgy, which reinforces the notion that life’s journey is a continuous quest for self-discovery and fulfillment.

The hero’s journey, as described by mythologist Joseph Campbell, involves a protagonist leaving their familiar world to face trials and tribulations, undergo profound transformation, and ultimately return with newfound wisdom to benefit their community. Parashat Lech-Lecha encapsulates this archetype, as Abraham is called by God to leave his homeland and venture into the unknown. His journey becomes symbolic of the courage required to leave one’s comfort zone, answering the call to pursue a higher purpose.

In “Lecha Dodi,” recited on Friday evening to welcome Shabbat, we find echoes of the hero’s journey. The prayer joyfully invites the “bride,” symbolizing the Sabbath, to enter, personifying the arrival of rest and spiritual rejuvenation after a week of work and challenges. This theme of leaving the ordinary world behind and entering a sacred space mirrors Abraham’s venture into the unknown. Like the hero, we too seek solace and purpose through our spiritual pursuits, transcending the mundane to find meaning in the divine.

Let’s GO, my beloved, to greet the bride!
Let’s WELCOME the presence of Shabbat!

Moreover, “Lecha Dodi” calls upon the congregation to go out and welcome the Sabbath. The opening refrain declares: “Let’s go, my beloved, to greet the bride; Let us welcome the presence of Shabbat.” This notion of active participation and jubilant anticipation reflects the hero’s journey’s call to adventure, where the hero embraces challenges with enthusiasm, knowing that growth and transformation await. Just as Abraham took that leap of faith to follow God’s command, we are encouraged to embrace the challenges and opportunities that life presents, knowing that our own hero’s journey is imbued with the potential for self-discovery and growth.

In Parashat Lech-Lecha, Abraham encounters various trials, such as famine and conflicts, which test his faith and resolve. Similarly, the liturgical prayer of “Mi Chamocha” recited during Saturday morning services commemorates the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites. It acknowledges the challenges faced by our ancestors and how their unwavering faith led to divine intervention and ultimate salvation. This reminder of the past trials and triumphs inspires us to navigate our own challenges with resilience and faith, knowing that the hero’s journey is marked by overcoming obstacles.

Parashat Lech-Lecha presents an inspiring hero’s journey, as Abraham’s pursuit of purpose and faith illuminates the path for each individual’s transformative quest. The prayer in the Friday evening and Saturday morning liturgy beautifully complements this narrative, reminding us that life’s journey is akin to the hero’s quest, with its ups and downs, trials and triumphs. Just as the hero faces challenges head-on, we too can embrace the unknown with courage and faith, finding our purpose and fulfilling our own heroic destinies.