One Step that Changed the Universe
Abraham’s journey related in this week’s Torah portion
changed the world forever. Had Abraham not embarked on his
odyssey to the “land that I will show you,” we would not
have a “promised land,” we would not have a Jewish people,
we would not have Sinai, we would not have Judaism, Christianity,
Islam and (according to some) Hinduism and Buddhism and
other Far Eastern disciplines, we would not have the principles
stated in the Ten Commandments, which define the basic human
rights that gave become the bedrock of our modern democracies.
Imagine: A lonely journey by a single man (accompanied
by a small group of people) taken 3747 years ago changed
the entire course of history!
This summer we honored the 40th anniversary
of man landing on the moon: If Neil Armstrong’s “one
small step for man” was “one giant leap for
mankind,” how would we define the implications of
Abraham’s first step out of Charan on his way to Canaan?!
In 1972, when President Nixon took his historic trip to
China, opening up relations with that closed country, Western
journalists had their first opportunity to speak with Chinese
leaders. When they asked Chinese leader Zhou Enlai about
the impact of the American and French Revolutions, he replied:
“It's too early to tell…”
Our myopic perspective often exaggerates the impact of
immediate events happening around us. No one questions the
unprecedented landing on the moon, or Columbus’ voyage
to the New World, or other great steps taken by men throughout
history. But greater then them all – the one that
had by far the most powerful impact on history – was
What was it about this journey that carried such potency?
What can we learn from Abraham about our own journeys today?
How can we ensure that our expeditions leave an indelible
positive mark on our children and on generations to come?
Abraham’s journey was far more than a geographical excursion.
It was a transition from the comfort zones of self-absorption
to the greatest heights of transcendence; a journey from
the mortal to the immortal.
Abraham lived in a world absorbed with deep self-interest
(sound familiar?) – a pagan world that was consumed
with its own way of doing things. Nothing new – the
way of all flesh, the natural inclination of man is to serve
oneself. Abraham pioneered a new path. Resisting all pressures
– rejecting all the influences of his life, his family,
culture and community – Abraham searched for something
true and eternal, something that transcends the subjective
whims of man and transient forces of nature. A lone man
pitted against an entire world, Abraham discovered the only
true certainty in life: The only certainty in life is the
absolute commitment to your Divine calling, to the mission
for which you have been uniquely chosen.
G-d’s call to Abraham – “Lech Lecha,” “Go to
you, away from your land, from your birthplace, and from
your father’s house, to the land that I will show
you” – is the essence of mans’ calling on earth:
To leave your instinctive and subjective influences, to
depart from your nature and habits, to transcend the prejudice
of ego, to free yourself from social pressures – to go beyond
your self, your genetic and conditioned self, and achieve
Abraham was the first to take the journey. But not the
last. The “Lech Lecha” call resounds through
history as it beckons to each one of us: Will you live a
life driven by existential interests, or one aspiring transcendence.
Each moment of our lives, at each encounter we face we
have two choices: To be mediocre or to be great. Will you
follow your selfish, immediate needs, or will you transcend
your natural self and reach beyond yourself – to your
essence, who you truly are? Will you just suffice with the
confines of the forces that have shaped you, or will you
go beyond your self?
As each of goes through our life journey we will come to
a fork in the road and face this question many times. Reading
Abraham’s story can be a tremendous inspiration. Our
father Abraham’s story is our story. Abraham ‘father
of all nations’ – the first man to discover
transcendence – teaches us that the only real response
to doubts and confusion is to embrace our unwavering calling.
Abraham began the journey 3747 years ago (Lech Lecha took
place in Abraham’s 75th year); we are poised
to conclude it. Lech Lecha is the immortal call to Abraham
to set out on a journey that would defy the very nature
of existence – to reach heaven and beyond, and bring
it back to earth.
In the spirit of Abraham, here is a humble suggestion:
Let us all think and then write down what journey are we
taking in our lives? Are we trapped in our comfort zones?
What fears and uncertainties keep us paralyzed? And then
ask yourself: What is the most certain thing in your life?
What do you know is real with absolute and unconditional
If you cannot find the answer, begin looking now. Listen
to the “Lech Lecha” call and begin your journey.
If you have the answer, cherish it and hold onto it with
every fiber of your being – and above all, live up
Every experience in our lives offers us the opportunity
to achieve greatness. Will you rise to the occasion?
Just as Abraham was promised when he embarked on his journey,
so too are we promised on our journey: “I will make
you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great
and you shall become a blessing. I will bless those…
all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”
And if the skeptic in you wonders whether you will be blessed
this way, consider this:
This blessing was bestowed upon Abraham 3747 years ago,
and in the millennia that followed from then till now we
see its realization – despite all odds. Can one then
doubt whether the same blessing can be fulfilled today in