For this year’s E-Torah cycle, we will approach the weekly portion as a springboard for a learning conversation. Each week will offer a brief commentary, followed by a prompt for discussion, which you can do with a family member or a friend—or on your own as a sort of internal dialogue/reflection.
The Holy One said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)
Over many years of long-distance hiking and paddling, I have learned that those who make it to trail or river’s end are not necessarily either the most skilled or best conditioned adventurers. I’ve seen many physically-powerful people falter, while those with far fewer natural advantages succeed. Why? Because the hardest part of any journey is in our own heads and hearts. It’s not about who can walk thirty-five miles in a day—it’s about who musters the will to put on their wet socks and set out on the cold, rainy morning when they would rather remain in camp. As Father Henri Nouwen taught: The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be.
This week’s Torah portion, Lech L’chah, marks the beginning of Abraham’s lifelong journey, as God asks him to abandon his native country and navigate by faith alone toward the Promised Land. The physical hardships are considerable but our Rabbis remind us that for Abraham, too, the inner, spiritual journey is of the essence. Noting that the Hebrew, lech l’chah, can be read literally as go to yourself, they teach that the real work of our lifetimes is an inward exploration.
Where are you on the arc of your own life’s journey—physically, and spiritually? Are you on course, or is it time to explore in a new direction? What do you need to keep moving forward when times are difficult?