In some ways I wish I was Abraham. I wish I had God telling me to go to where He will show me. There seems to be something nice to have a bit of direction in a time of uncertainty. Now, in the text there is also a lot of uncertainty. God just says, follow me. Abraham takes his family and just follows along, not really knowing where that might be.
I find myself just going along, and really at this point I have no real idea of what is next. I know that in two and half weeks I will be in New York. I know that when I am in New York, once a month I will be in Chicago. But then there comes June- the question that everyone is asking. Where will I go? What job will I have? What country will I be in?
My brother always tells me to stop for a moment and listen to God, because He is actually guiding me. I’m not always so sure of what that means, but I can see that in the past year I have lived in three countries. In some ways I belong everywhere and in others I belong nowhere. Someone mentioned to me the other day that they think of me as an American, which was surprising because I haven’t called America home since 2008. When I am away, then I sound American. I grew up in America. So there is no reason to think otherwise (except for those who think that I sounds Canadian, and sometimes British or South African [really have no clue where they get that idea]).
The verse of Lech Lecha says “Go forth (Lech Lecha) from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Most commentators look at this verse and question the order, that when one leaves, of course they leave “their father’s house” before they leave “their land”. The Ramban explains that verse is written in this way to stress the difficulty and pain of leaving one’s home. The order is not ordered geographically. Rather, it is an ascending scale of heart wrenching departure: “ Because it is difficult for a person to leave the country in which one has lived, one’s social group, the familiar environment. But it is even harder to leave the place where one was born. The hardest thing is to leave parents”.
I “left” my parents house in 2003 when I was 17 years old, but every time I leave again when I am visiting, I always tear up. It is something we joke about in the family, because my mom always bursts into tears at the airport. Leaving America years ago was not so hard, it was hard to leave the people that I love and that love me.
Leaving Israel in May, there is something about leaving the land, something that feels like home, but more so it was hard to leave the people that became my family. But I had to leave to do what I feel I am destined to do, and maybe that is the most difficult of all, as I do not know when I will see them again. I know that I will see my parents and family. They are important to me, and unlike in Abraham’s time, travel is much easier. And so it will be a priority in my life to see my family. But my created family in Israel, I do not know if or when I will be back, no matter how much I might want, I might not be able to, and that is what is the most difficult.
Rashi reminds us that “Continual travel: lowers the chances of having children, drains one’s financial resources and means that one will not be well known”. Travel makes one poor, childless and anonymous. Rashi could not be more true. I love to travel, there is a lot of positives that come out of my roaming around. But at the same time, it is a place of loneliness. Will I be able to find a partner? How do I have children and do what I want to be doing? Traveling is expensive (unless you find people to pay for you). And there is something about starting over. In each place I go, there might be people who have heard of me (the internet changes things a lot since the time of Rashi), but they don’t know me. In some ways this is great. It means I can do new things because people don’t have any expectations. In other ways it is really difficult. It means that no one knows me. So no one knows how to help me or comfort me. No one knows what I like. No one can instinctively know what I need. [Yes, Avraham is different because he not only had Sara following, but also a whole community.]
It is Rashi again who says: “ Lech Lecha – Go for yourself : for your benefit and for your good …there will I make you into a nation, here you cannot have any children.” Sometimes leaving gives you opportunities that you coudl never have before. For Avraham it was having children. For some it is freedom. For some it is a job. For others it is finding a partner.
According to the Meshech Chochma the first verse of our parsha is saying: “Go forth from your land….to the place where I will show YOU to yourself”. Going somewhere new and different allows you to learn about yourself. Or if you are lucky, you are going to learn who you really are. You will no longer be trying to figure out what you are meant to be doing in the world or who you are meant to be.
The words Lech Lecha, can also be go to yourself. As I read in an article, it means to “get yourself going”. It is time to look and see what you want to do, and push yourself to do it. Sometimes people on the outside are going to try and convince you that you can’t do it or that it is not worth it. But there are times that there is that little voice inside of you that tells you that you should, and there are definitely times that you should just do it. Do what you feel is right or what you are meant to be doing, you never know where you are going to end up next.
So yes, I wish I was like Abraham. I wish there was a clear voice guiding me to where I am supposed to go next. But for now, maybe I just need to listen to my brother, and try to notice the little things that are guiding me. Taking the chance with random opportunities that just happens to be my dream. Looking out for the signs for things that just seem to come together. Finding the places that feel “right”. And maybe those are the ways I am following my “Lech Lecha”- be that where God is showing me or me figuring out who I am meant to be.