Breaking Free

Wednesday, 2 November, 2011 - 6:00 pm

Sometime this week humanity welcomed member number 7 billion to our planet. 

Mazal Tov!

The quick Mazal Tov refrain is the natural Jewish response. Yet, the politically correct retort might be much different. Some might even consider this terrible news.  After all, the ecosystem is already overburdened and the ozone layer may not be able to handle all the carbon emissions this baby will eventually produce.

Without venturing too far into the debate of procreation and natural resources – bottom line, the Torah considers human reproduction an obligation – I’d like to address the milestone itself.

We may never know which baby was number seven billion, but certainly he or she has a name. She may have loving parents; he may have older siblings. He may be American; she may be Japanese. Ultimately, she is not merely a statistic. She has a bright future ahead of her. Who knows – she may even discover a way to make better use of earth’s resources; he may help bring global peace.

If we lump people together they may never excel. To truly realize one’s potential we need to discover our own unique calling.


One of the most celebrated local social programs is Project C.A.T.C.H., which helps homeless families get back on their feet. It has an amazing 87% success rate. How does it manage to perform so well?

Social experts point to the fact that this program takes homeless families out of the homeless shelters and provides six months of housing for them. In this new environment they are not encumbered by the challenges they were facing. They think differently and act differently in their new setting and lifestyle.


This was the message that G-d gave to Avraham in the opening words of this week’s parsha, Lech Lecha:

“And the L-rd said to Abram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.”

Avraham was 75 years old at the time. In fact, the Midrash teaches us a great deal about Avraham’s youth. Yet the Torah mentions nothing of his life up to this point. Rather, G-d’s instruction to travel is deemed the most fitting opening scene of the first Jew. Why?


Indeed, Avraham accomplished a lot in his junior years, but the Torah is teaching us the beginning of his unique role in G-d’s game plan.

So long as Avraham was encumbered by the harmful environment of his family and community, he was hindered. The first step in realizing his sacred goals was to depart from the restrictive atmosphere. Once the negative influences were left behind, his true spiritual self could emerge.

Thus begins the journey of the first Jew. And thus, the Torah teaches, begins the journey of every Jew. To reach our true potential we need to discard the habits, gadgets and perhaps people that hold us back.


We may never know who baby 7,000,000,000 is, but we do know that for her to flourish she must be allowed to carve out her unique space in this world. Let’s not hold her back. Let’s not hold ourselves back.

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