The world often seems to be a crazy place. How does one hold strong, and serve God in the proper way amidst all the turmoil?
The Torah is our guide. We know that Torah comes from the Hebrew root word hora’ah — teach. The Torah is not just a book of stories, but rather our guide to life. This week’s Torah portion provides a self-help map for each of us.
In the beginning of this week’s portion, God tells Avraham “Lech Lecha”, instructing him to leave his hometown and travel. The words Lech Lecha literally mean “go to you,” encouraging Avraham to reach deep within himself to find the energy and resources that he will need in the service of God.
We must keep in mind that at the time that God commanded Avraham “Lech Lecha,” he was already an accomplished person. He had recognized God at a young age, broken his father’s idols, and taken on King Nimrod. He had surely proven himself time and again to be a loyal servant of Hashem. Still, Hashem instructs him with the words Lech Lecha.
Is this really the ideal way to serve God? There is much to learn from the world around us. Should we not worry that the more we concentrate on our own genius and spend time reaching within, we may actually not be leaving much space for God after all?
And how does this jive with what it says later in the same Torah portion that “God took him (Avraham) outside and said, ‘Please look heavenward and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And God said to him, ‘So shall be your offspring!’”
Rashi questions the need to bring Avraham outdoors to actually see the stars. Couldn’t Hashem just have mentioned the stars that Avraham is already familiar with? God was taking Avraham out of his tent to physically see the stars and see the magnitude of his blessing.
But on a deeper level, God was hinting to Avraham that along with all the work he was doing on himself through introspection and reflection, he also needed to allow for God’s contribution which would boost him beyond his capabilities to a God-given energy that he had not tapped into previously.
God was telling Avraham — and by extension his descendants — that to truly serve God you need both. One has to reach to their deepest realm to tap into the abilities they never knew about. Still, our own abilities have limitations. That’s when we take that which we’ve found within and reach beyond to access God’s infinite blessings.
In the Talmud it asks the question “How do we know that no star controls the destiny of Israel? From the verse in this parasha “He took him outside.”
Avraham realized that according to the rules of nature, he and Sarah would not have a child. But God was telling him (and us): a Jew must go outside — he must leave the natural order, because his prayer has the power to reach his infinite God, to a place with no limitations.
This is the beauty I find working with the volunteers at the Friendship Circle. Very often when they start volunteering as young teens, they can be timid, unsure of their capabilities when working with children with special needs. As they get more involved, they tap into skills they never knew they had and it is absolutely astounding and heartwarming to witness the transformation as they become truly capable and confident volunteers as their efforts and their mitzvah are blessed by God.
So go ahead and find the spark within, but then you must do the second part too and connect it with God and his Torah. When you do that, I have no doubt that you amongst all the Jewish People will reap God’s bountiful blessings, with the ultimate blessing of the coming of Moshiach.