The story of the Jewish people begins with a call to journey into the unknown:
YHVH said to Abram, “Go forth from your land, from the place that you were born, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃
Before the new terrain will be revealed, Abram (soon to be Abraham) has to take one step forward, and then another.
- What gives Abraham the strength and courage to “go forth”?
- What gives us the strength and courage to move forward with the many uncertainties that we face?
Genesis 12:1 is often understood as, “Lech lecha- Go forth: Leave behind everything that you know: distance yourself from the beliefs and customs of your upbringing, release everything that is familiar.” This interpretation certainly resonates with me in these turbulent times. Our fundamental assumptions are challenged at every turn. Our current ways of working, living and playing are unrecognizable to the selves that we were even one year ago.
Lech lecha can also be translated as “go to yourself.” What if the call to “Go forth from your land, from the place that you were born, and from your father’s house” does not necessitate a complete rejection of everything that came before, but a deep listening to our inner wisdom amidst the external confusion and chaos. Drawing on our inner knowing, we sift through what has been as we would place the contents of a messy closet into piles of “keep” “discard” and “recycle” as we clean it out. Perhaps Abraham’s challenge, and ours, is to bring into awareness all that we have taken for granted and ask: What will, and what will not, serve me on this journey? What assumptions and ways of being do I need to completely let go, and what do I need to make new? What do I take with me on this journey into the unknown?
As the familiar ground falls away, I turn inward (lech lecha, go to yourself) – to each breath in my mindfulness meditation practice, to relationships with those I hold most dear, to find a place of temporary refuge. I hold on tight to what I believe about justice and goodness, and I work to bring these values into this country and this world.