We meet Abraham and Sarah (or Abram and Sarai, as they are known at this early point in their story) this week again in Torah … The portion is called Lech L’cha and these are the words that Abram hears from God. These words are the first clue we receive into the character of Abraham. God tells Abram to, ‘Pack Your Bags! … go, leave your homeland, the land of your birth, your parents’ house … to a place that I will show you.’ Abram, in order to become Abraham (and Sarai, in order to become Sarah) needed to leave what was familiar, comfortable and insular. This journey was not a mere physical one – but an existential, emotional and spiritual journey. In order to grow, evolve and mature – Abram needed to pack his bags (physical and emotional) and leave home.
Anyone one of us who is a parent or a child (which I think should be most of us!) understands this important aspect of becoming a person. As much as our parents may love and guide us, as much as our homes or homelands may be familiar and life giving to us … there comes a point (often a painful one) in which we need to extract ourselves in order to better become ourselves. We do not cut off or reject these important relationships, people or the ways that they have impacted us. We do, however, heed the same call that Abraham heard from God: “Leave what is safe and familiar and go to a place that I will show you … and I will make your name great.”
As the Rocky Mountain Rabbinic Council began its iEngage Israel class this week … I hear echoes of God’s call to Abraham within the class materials, lectures and discussions. The class (and its supporting curriculum from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel) is designed to give Jews across the political, denominational and age spectrums a chance examine our relationship with Israel and with other Jews in our community. It is a class that will challenge its participants to re-examine our Jewish community’s accepted narrative about why Israel is important and how we translate that importance into relationship. The participants are being asked to leave the friendly confines of their intellectual and emotional homes – at least in the context of their relationship to Israel. They are being asked to extract themselves from a life long narrative and perspective about Israel – in order to consider other ideas about how that relationship may grow, evolve and mature.
And like those journeys from our parents’ homes for Abram, us and our children … this intellectual one may be painful and cause anxiety, but it also promises greatness. We must remember no matter the journey upon which we may find ourselves: the place that God wants us to see, the greatness … only comes if we are genuinely ready to pack our bags and and go.