When I was a kid I always wanted to be a truck driver. Not just any truck driver, mind you. I wanted to be a truck driver for a moving company.
My desire stems from my personal experience of moving often as a kid. I vividly remember packing up our home with my parents and brothers, and large men – usually named Spike or Roy – came and put all of our possessions on a truck. Then, off the truck went on a new journey to a new destiny and new beginnings. We left that which was comfortable, and started on the road to a new beginning.
The parasha this week begins when God says to Abram,
“Abram, go. Go, pack up your things and go from this land, your birthplace, your father’s land to a land that I will show you.”
Why did Abram have to move? What was the significance of his physical change?
I suggest it was because Abram was spiritually unfulfilled. God wanted to develop a relationship with Abram and in order for that to happen, God required that Abram move physically in order to move spiritually.
The students of Rashi commented on the words Lech Lecha. “Abram, go, begin your journey, and there, you will worship me in the land of Israel, because all of the time you are outside the land you have no relationship with God.” It is clear from this source that the point of the physical journey was to grow spiritually and augment Abram’s relationship with God.
The words Lech Lechaï€ in the beginning of the text seem to be redundant. The text could have easily said Lech, go. But it employs the double usage – one standing for the physical journey, the second standing for the spiritual journey. The Zohar explains that Abram going to the Promised Land was like a soul descending into a body. Abram was the soul completing the body of Israel. What a beautiful nexus between the physical and the spiritual.
Changing, moving, and looking at things from a new point of view are some of the most difficult things in the world to do. We all love our routine. We all feel secure with familiar neighborhoods. We love to walk into the diner and order the same drink and bagel without change. When we escape from our regular order, something seems different. It never tastes right and it inevitably throws our days off balance. Sometimes we find ourselves changing our orders, we find ourselves on journeys. Most of the time we aren’t prepared for these journeys and they could not come at more inopportune time. Nonetheless, by embarking on them, we naturally cultivate our relationship with God.
In order to gain perspective on things you have to shake it up a little, change them around. These changes are integral in advancing your relationship with God.
There is an interesting law that applies to a mourner. If someone is a regular attendee at synagogue, he or she most likely has an established seat, a makom kavua. The law teaches that in the unfortunate case of a loved one’s death, we must change our makom kavua for the entire year of mourning. At a time when we would naturally question God the most, we need to sit somewhere that would give us new and different perspective so we can continue with our relationship. This beautiful principle in our tradition encourages us to maintain our connection with God, regardless of circumstance.
The Babylonian Talmud teaches in tractate Rosh HaShanah: Meshane makom, meshane mazal, by changing our place in life we can change our fortune. I suggest that we translate the text a bit differently. Instead of meshane makom, changing our fortune, we should understand it as changing our destiny. Abram took a physical journey in his life and it led him to a deeper relationship with God. Like Abram, we are always seeking out our destiny. Some of us have spiritual journeys, while others look at each day as a new miracle and a time of deepening our appreciation for God. All of us take journeys that are different in nature, but all of them strengthen our individual character and change our perspectives.
As our country begins a new journey, may we see the blessings in beginning anew and continue to learn from our ancestor Abram in realizing that by moving and changing physically we create opportunities to grow spiritually. May we all realize that opportunity in the days and years of our journey that lie ahead.