Lech Lecha – Peace be the Journey

Vignette:

Turns out, in Brooklyn, there are no yard-sales (no yards…) and no garage sales (for same reason) but! instead, there are “stoop sales” – a yard-sale on the brownstone’s steps…

This Shabbat is “Shabbat Project”:The idea is simple – Jews from all walks of life, from across the spectrum of religious affiliation, young and old, from all corners of the world – come together to experience the magic of one full Shabbat kept together…”
One Shabbat a year it’s extra official: shuls, JCCs, meals, programs, challah bake… you name it. There sure to be a place nearby to celebrate. Really, every Shabbat should be “Shabbat Project” (so it is at “my shul”) and anyone should always be able to find a seat near the table. Yet, so often, something we can do “anytime”, we never do. So especially this Shabbat, pull a chair closer… and if you’re near Brooklyn, I hope you’ll let me know.

Lech-Lecha: Go to Yourself
Last week’s Torah portion was Noah, from the Hebrew word, Nach, rested, paused. And this week, with Lech-Lecha – literally “go to yourself” – we’re walking. The first Jewish couple is in motion, constantly moving. This restlessness they beget in us; that drive to, not just accept things as they are, but, keep “stirring the pot”, keep moving about, working to increase blessing in the world.
We probably all know the story about young Abram who was left to watch the idols in his father’s workshop. Somehow a fight broke out between the idols, the biggest one beat up the little ones and many of them broke. When his dad came back home, he was enraged and kicked Abram out. So Abram started journeying, leaving his birth place in Ur Casdim, Ur of the Chaldeans…
It’s a beautiful story with many deep meanings and two disappointing facts: one, in spite of its great familiarity, it’s not in Torah; and two, Abram’s father, Terach, actually left Ur Casdim with Abram and the rest of the family. At the end of last week’s reading, we find:
לא וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת-אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ, וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-הָרָן בֶּן-בְּנוֹ, וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ; וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-חָרָן, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם. 31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldeans, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
It is quite possible that the departure was due to many reasons, not excluding embarking on a new, unique spiritual path. But somewhere along the way, the family stopped. Doubts? Misgivings? Second thoughts? Others wondering what’s the craziness, what gotten into them? Or maybe life got in the way: Haran, Abram’s brother, died; Abram and his other brother, Nachor, married. Haran’s son, Lot, needed care. The family settled. The dreams of a journey far away were cut short.
But for some, there is no way back. It is then that G-d begins his ‘one on one’ relationship with Abram (Genesis 12:1-4):
א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. 1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.
ב וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה. 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.
ג וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה. 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curses you will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’
ד וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו יְהוָה, וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ, לוֹט; וְאַבְרָם, בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, בְּצֵאתוֹ, מֵחָרָן. 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
And again, something strange: when one leaves on a journey, first one walks out of the parents’ home, then the neighborhood and close community, and lastly, the land, while here, the order is backwards. Perhaps the journey is not only physical, and in a spiritual journey, the order is reversed. When we leave the shells and habits of the past, we are invited “to the land that I will show you”.
Traditionally, the land, “aretz” is understood to be Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. But in one of my many readings, I find another layer: the word eretz, land, is connected to the word ratzon, want.
The goal of our journey is – our want, wish, desire, will. Indeed, one of the most complex things in life is to identify and clarify what is it that we really want. When we’re little, we scream loud and ask what we’d like to have unabashedly: not this! That! Not that color! That one!! Now! But then, we “grow up”, we learn “how to behave” and lose much of it, and with it, often lose our way, our core, our purpose, which needs to be regained, often through great effort.
As a parent, one is hard at work so that one’s kids will not have to struggle, not like you, not that much, but at the end of the day, each of us has their journey to the aretz; and that journey takes listening, following, investing time, persistence and hard work. It might slip many times, doubts, temptations, false voices, all are inevitable along the way, but just as inevitable is to keep walking, adhering to that voice telling us, Lech-Lecha.

Shabbat Shalom.

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