Abraham’s Journey Today
Lech Lecho – Go to you, away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you
– G-d’s call to Abraham – Opening of parshat Lech Lecha
Uncertainty, uncertainty and more uncertainty. Doubts plague us wherever we turn.
First an attack that tragically brought down our great towers, with thousands of lives lost, and millions of psyches wounded. 13 months later the wealthiest and most powerful country in history still has no idea who attacked us, their objectives, how and against whom to retaliate and above all, how to prevent future attacks. An unknown enemy, from an unknown location with unknown objectives.
Then came anthrax, which still remains a mystery.
Then came the totally unexpected betrayal of our trust in the corporate culture. Public trust is the foundation of corporate America and the enormous wealth it has generated, and that trust has now been broken. The stock market plummets, and even as it momentarily rises and gives people hope, our economy remains shrouded in the shadows of uncertainty.
How long ago was it when we all were so certain that the Internet boom would never go away, when everything seemed so safe and sound, as we cruised along from success to success.
Now, a sniper in the Washington area who has gunned down victim after victim keeps everyone guessing as he (she? them?) continues his rampage.
What has happened to all our reliable security systems? Just yesterday we felt so sure of ourselves and convinced of our invincibility.
There may be no direct link between all these collapses, but one common thread glaringly connects them all: Uncertainty. These events all contribute – accumulatively – to an increasing sense of helplessness and they expose our lack of control.
And what lies ahead? What other ‘surprises’ can we look forward to?…
Uncertainty has become our most certain commodity. Will this become the age of uncertainty instead of the age of freedom which we all had hoped for?
So it’s quite refreshing to read this week’s Torah portion about Abraham. Abraham lived in a time consumed with another sort of uncertainty – a pagan world that lost its sense of direction. 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 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 Lecho,” “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 greatness.
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 we go through the throes of our newfound (or newly-exposed) vulnerability and we enter an age of ever-deepening uncertainty, reading Abraham’s story couldn’t come at a better time. Our father Abraham’s story is our story. Abraham ‘father of all nations’ – the first man to discover certainty in a world of uncertainty – teaches us that the only real response to doubts and confusion is to embrace our unwavering calling.
Abraham began the journey 3740 years ago (Lech Lecho took place in Abraham’s 75th year); we are poised to conclude it. Lech Lecho 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. Abraham was shown the vision of all the challenges to come, the rise and fall of empires, the battles between his children (see last year’s essay, Abraham’s Vision)
After three and a half millennia – and all that has transpired in between – we are ready to reach the destination and realize the fulfillment of Abraham’s vision.
The uncertainty of our times can either paralyze us, force us into denial or… challenge us to find the certainty within our existence.
In the spirit of Abraham, here is a humble suggestion: Let us all think and then write down what is the most certain thing in your life? What do you know is real with absolute and unconditional surety?
If you cannot find the answer, begin looking now. Listen to the “Lech Lecho” 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 to it.
Every experience in our lives offers us the opportunity to achieve greatness. Will you rise to the occasion?