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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Lech Lecha- Courage

The past few days have been so illuminating. Parshat Lech Lecha, one of my favorite parshiyot, begins the story of Avraham and Sarah and their journey toward a promise.

Always in the past I have thought about Lecha Lecha as a story about faith which propels Avram and Sarai forward, but this year I understood it differently. Perhaps it was courage that enabled the forefather and foremother to embark upon a journey to the unknown.

Perhaps this is a call for the courage to go forward.

I am interested in courage because it is what propels us forward. Because I wanted to understand courage, yesterday I asked a number of people to share with me their own stories of courage; courage that they had shown, or perhaps the courage of someone else. Whenever I send out random emails or texts to people I know, I think that this will be the time that they no longer open the text or email, but yesterday and today I was surprised at the many responses that I received and what a wonderful array of answers they were. Indeed, as each of us is different, each response varied, and all anwers were illuminating. (It's not too late. I would love to hear from you.)

At the end of this poem about courage will be part two of this post, which are your responses about courage and bravery.

I have summarized people's responses in order to uphold everyone's privacy and for brevity's sake. My conclusions? We are all Avram and Sarai and each of us experience pivotal Avram and Sara moments in our own lives. The courage we possess which propels us forward to the unknown. Perhaps this is the symbolism of the letter Hay that we add to Avraham and Sarah's name. Perhaps God is not only faith, but courage, too.

Part 1

Lech Lecha- Courage


the hours

between Genesis 12:1

God said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you."


Genesis 12:4

"Abram went forth as God had commanded him,......"

when time stood








the spitting camels,

the sealed bags of grain,

the herds of sheep,

the tumult,

the long goodbyes


the dusty road


Not present

in the spaces between the words

is what is left behind.

Faces as familiar

as our own.



Our own

language that flows


through our lips,

like water.

The smells and sounds

of home.


from the text


the tossing

and turning,

the self doubts;

the pacing,

the loud weeping

the give and take,

the overwhelming hesitations,



a gleam in the eye,

a tentative nod,

a deep sigh,

a shift of thought

and a measure of courage.

Decision made.


the fuel that

plows through



the balm

that soothes

the aching fear

in our bellies.


Hands busy themselves





closing doors,

closing pieces of our lives.

It is time to go.


As you leave

one last look behind

one final moment;


forever imprinted

behind your eyelids.


urges you forward.

Without it.

nothing would ever change.

With every winding journey,

with every bump along the road.

Failure is always possible,

at any point,


courage is our guide,

our roadmap to the idea,

the concept,

to the new and fresh,

to that which known

and unknown.

Courage brings us to The Land,

the idea.

That land once only imagined becomes real.

Let courage be the wind behind your back.

Let it be the compass that guides you

past the stars in the sky,

past those who say you cannot do it,

past your own doubts,

to the discoveries that you seek.



Part 2-

People's Stories Summarized-

The Question: What is the bravest thing you have ever done?

Conclusion: There are so many similarities between what you wrote and the parsha this week. So many of you have taken or are on journeys that are ongoing. We are all Avraham and Sarah. Courage is the engine that keeps us moving forward.


Your Answers

Doing a long distance swim for the first time at 50

Giving a professional speech in a different language

in the presence of many.

Leaving a secure job to start a business

Working with AIDS patients in the 1980s

Leaving a troubled, long standing relationship that did not work.

Starting again after the devastation of the Holocaust.

Being a business woman at a time when there were only business men.

Traveling alone to a distant state to work.

Traveling alone to a different country to learn.

Leaving family behind and moving to the opposite coast or a different land.

Having the courage to do something that you have never done before.

To accept the path that God has sent to us.

To make a decision to marry a spouse.

To pick up the pieces of a life after a divorce.

Learning to swim as an adult with fear of deep water.

Going before an older sibling to get one's ear pierced to set an example.

Learning to live on your own.

Going camping in the back woods.

Joining a synagogue in a new land as someone new to Judaism.

Approaching and speaking to a hostile relative.

Taking on responsibility of caring for others,

the service,

a husband,

a parent,

a business owner, caring for a loved one.

Climbing the Tower of Pisa.

Being on television.

Singing live before peers.

Learning to open one's heart to being vulnerable after a divorce.

Learning to ski.

Being the first of a family to ever attend university.

Daring to choose a profession not approved of by parents.

Refusing to be drafted into the armed forces.

Converting to a different religion.

Giving birth.

Caring with all your heart for a child.

Enlisting in the army.

Leaving the country of one's birth to immigrate to another land.

Daring to speak in your new, adopted language.

Traveling to a hostile foreign country during the time of freeing the Soviet Jews

Being the bearer of bad news.

Marrying, leaving home and living with spouse's family far away from own family.

"God said to Abram, "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you." Genesis 12:1 (From Sefaria)

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃

Please feel free to send me your stories of courage. Send to

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