Thursday, October 10, 2013

Parashat Lech-L’cha

9. And Abram traveled, continually traveling southward.

ט. וַיִּסַּע אַבְרָם הָלוֹךְ וְנָסוֹעַ הַנֶּגְבָּה:
Abram/Abraham is often considered the first Jew, which I suppose would make him the first Wandering Jew. It’s an image of Jews that reappears throughout history, generally through a negative lens. In much of European history, Jews were spoken of as outsiders, wanderers that had no real home. In reality, that wasn’t always the case, and it certainly isn’t the case now. Many European Jews at various points in history did really feel very at home in Germany, Spain, and wherever else they lived, and now, we all have homes here in Brooklyn, where especially, Jews are very integrated in society. I, personally, do not have a permanent home in Brooklyn, but that doesn’t leave me feeling like an outsider, wandering around aimlessly. And I don’t think that’s how Abram felt, either.
             G-d told Abram to go out, to leave his father’s house, the land of his birth, to find a place that G-d will show him. Abram goes, trusting in G-d, or in his own internal sense of direction. He is not aimlessly wandering. He is wandering to find something. A Holy Land, a place that G-d will lead him to, a place where his barren wife, Sarai, will give birth. Perhaps he is not just looking for the place, either. Maybe he is looking for a journey that will imbue him with wisdom, teach him some life lessons, build his relationship with G-d. This week’s G-dcast video was a song, sung through Sarai’s point of view, about the journey. She says, “It’s not just a land we are going to, but the journey itself is where we prove ourselves to you. So it’s time for us to leave, and live what we believe.”
            You’ve all probably heard some variation on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” We are all journeying, always. There are so many poems and songs to quote to drive this message home! But Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” says it best: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

We are all journeying, always. Some people have really difficult journeys. Some people’s journeys are not so hard. The voyage might be made hard by physical obstacles, or internal ones. Poverty and social injustice can block the way forward. Mixed emotions or complete silence when you really wish G-d would just outright say to you, “Go!” to help you make up your mind can make you feel stuck in one place for two long. But Abram and Sarai went forth, trusting a deity no one else believed in yet, and took a road not previously travelled. We are all journeying, always. May we have the courage of Abram and Sarai to take the road less travelled, to wander in search of something meaningful, and may we find it. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

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