In this week’s reading, our forefather Abraham is told to leave home. He is to journey to the Promised Land, where, G-d promises, Abraham will grow to be a great nation. But as we know, the Nation of Israel only develops after most of the intervening years are spent in exile — Jacob spends decades in the house of Laban, and then he and all of his children reside in Egypt for over 200 years. Why was it so important for Abraham to go to the Land of Israel?
The verse itself tells us that it wasn’t just about where he was going — it was about leaving, as well. “… Go for yourself out of your country, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” [Gen 12:1] Abraham had to leave his comfortable home environment in order to grow to be that great nation. He could not remain in the house of his father, surrounded by idols, and achieve his destiny.
In order to grow, it is necessary to move. Sometimes that move is physical — to Israel, or to a community where one is surrounded by others also committed to Jewish growth. But even more, there must be a mental move, out of our comfort zone. To grow as a Jew means to challenge preconceptions and stereotypes, to explore spiritual alternatives and Commandments that may at first seem foreign. That may make the journey seem difficult — but fear not: for Jews, it is a well-traveled path!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org