I’ve been wanting to talk about “Lech Lecha” for a while now,
The story of our Biblical father Abram—later Abraham-- being commanded by G-d to leave the land of his father
And claim a new destiny in the land of Canaan.
Basically I want an excuse to talk about the way the show “Transparent” adapted it in their 2019 musical finale.
The show is about a self-involved California Jewish family whose patriarch comes out as trans in the pilot episode, and the way that coming out impacts everyone else in her family.
Of the kids, the main focus is the youngest, who goes by Ali for most of the show but comes out as nonbinary in the finale and identifies as Ari.
In an early season of the show, we learn that parental neglect led Ari’s parents to allow them to opt out of their bat mitzvah.
Their parsha is “lech lecha,” and despite not having a ceremony, in a climactic moment in the episode a 13 year old Ari delivers her Torah portion to the lone cater-waiter played by Alanis Morisette who didn’t get the message.
Fast forward years later, and the world is vastly changed from the one in which we met these characters.
Jeffrey Tambor, the cis man who controversially the trans parent Maura of the title, was revealed to be a violent abuser, leading to the cancellation of the show itself.
Not so dissimilar to Abraham, whose single-minded pursuit of his prophet mission also left collateral damage among those around him, including his sons Isaac and Ishmael, as well as his wife’s maidservant Hagar.
In response to this news about Tambor, the show’s creator Jill Soloway decided to end the show on a musical note,
In which Tambor’s character has died and all of the characters have to process her loss.
Ari has spent the last several years finding themselves spiritually in Israel, and returns with their siblings to find not only their parent dead, but their house left to someone else.
And in this moment Ari sings a gorgeous translation/adaptation of “Lech Lecha” while their childhood self chants the Hebrew in the background:
“Run from your father’s house
There’s a land that I will show you
I will make your name a blessing as you as you float on out
Run from your father’s house.
Run from your father’s house
There’s a lesson I will teach you
I will honor all who honor you
Curse all who curse you.
And all the families of the earth
Shall bless themselves by you
And when you get home--
You won’t be alone
I promise to not look away.”
It builds on this rather mundane, dry command by G-d
To a GREAT MAN on his way to a GREAT destiny.
And turns it into a reassurance.
A gesture of soothing and nurturing.
An acknowledgment that leaving the past behind can be scary.
There is a reason that we often don’t make major changes until we are forced to.
Because there is comfort in the familiar.
The routines, the rituals.
Even the patterns of negative self-talk come in predictable ebbs and flows like the tide
And even provide us a sense of anchor.
What helps us take that leap into the abyss has to be more than the hope of success and fame--
Those things are fleeting when we do achieve them anyway--
But more it’s the possibility of a world where we can be truly known.
As a sort of fun side project, I have been coming up with memes on Instagram where I retell the Parsha story using Broadway and other pop culture memes.
This week I am using the tangled romance of Greg, Rose Quartz and Pearl from Steven Universe to explore Lech Lecha--
And how like Abram, Sarai, and Hagar these three left behind the worlds they knew--
Often suffering and perpetuating unspeakable loss and pain along the way--
And cracking the window open to destinies they could never imagined.
That idea that there exists a version of home where we can be supported in ways our families of origin simply were never capable.
It’s a powerful counterfactual for anyone who has never felt like they belonged in the place they were born.
And that we deserve the right to build a place where we can live together with all the other weirdos of the world.
“Lech Lecha”: Go forth and found your tribe.