Today’s episode is a Shabbat Replay of our November 5th Saturday Morning service, featuring a sermon by Rabbi Steven on Parashat Lech Lecha. In examining Abram's brave decision to follow God’s call to go forth into the wild unknown, we can find the inspiration we need to face our own future, calling, and journey.
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Produced by Mishkan Chicago. Music composed, produced, and performed by Kalman Strauss.
As Rabbi Lizzi noted earlier, the Torah in this week's parashat takes a really startling turn because the Torah starts in the universal with the creation of quite literally everything. And then it moves into a global perspective with the creation of humanity and our kind of first faltering steps as a species and many faltering steps those are into with the beginning and opening words that were just read a narrow focus on a particular family who is going to become a particular people so gone from the universal to the global to the particular and the words that begin our reading this week that launched us into this narrative of a family and to people are Lech Lecha God says to Avram "Lech Lecha" go it's like almost like hard to translate a little bit like go yourself like you yourself, go. Like nobody, nobody else can go on this journey but you you yourself, go leave your father's house, leave your hometown, your birthplace, leave your native land and go to this land, that I will show you a land where you and your descendants will become a great people. Luckily, it is a challenge and an opportunity for a Brahmin to become something more than what was expected of him to step into a new way of being the only he himself could become the only his family could grow into and knowing the possibility that lay ahead of him, however uncertain how how could he remain where he was knowing that there was something else out there? A fate a destiny, a destination, if you will, the only he could reach? So I really, I want us to take a moment to understand the adaptivity of ROM and sunrise and his family's journey. Because we actually, we like condensed what was probably years if not decades of wandering into like 20 lines of Torah, right? This was a moment in history when the idea of journeying to the next village must let like a distant and unknown land took a lot of courage and a lot of preparation. There was no way to know what the conditions on the road were ahead. There was no there's no Google Maps, you cannot Google your way from Iran to Kanaan. There was no way to predict the weather, there was no way to communicate with your destination to even know if that destination was even still there. When communication took weeks, if not years to happen, between distant places. And we also have to remember that Avraham had absolutely no clue where his journey would lead him. "Lech Lecha," ha go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father's home, to this place that I will show you, God says algorithm doesn't even get a name for the place that he is going, but only the promise that somehow he would know that he has reached his destination, once he got there. And Avraham continues to revisit this promise, asking God over and over and over again for reassurance throughout his journey, which shows us really the audacity but also the uncertainty that lay on the road between where he was from and where he was going. And it wasn't for a lack of faith that a ROM asked these questions. It wasn't that a ROM is somehow less resilient, or less courageous or less self assured than the rabbi's like to characterize him, as he's so often identified, by our tradition as a paragon of faith. Rather, that the journey is hard. There is what we find in the text some of what we read today encounters with strange people speaking strange languages and strange lands, navigating the complexities of intertribal relationships, witnessing calamities like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, living through famine, and plague. But there's also what we know to exist in the space between these particular moments and the narrative. Days wandering in the mountains, the hills and the plains of the Near East. Anybody who has been to the land of Israel knows that it can be a very harsh and unforgiving environment, the heat of the sun beating down on them I really want us like inhabit that space, searching for food and water, not knowing where to find it, sore feet and blisters sandals worn through all of this not certain, not knowing, not assured where this destination might actually end or how long it might take to get there. And truthfully actually feel like maybe this part of the story is the one that makes the most sense and feels the most immediate to us is more relatable because while while we may experience moments of intense color clarity and purpose. I imagine I know this is true for myself. A lot of us spend a lot of our time living in the wilderness, unsure of how long it will take to reach our destination, or even what our destination might look like. And this is certainly true on the macro level. How do we solve climate change? How do we mitigate the resurgence of bigotry? How do we protect and preserve our democracies and safeguard the progress that we have made both here in this country and also, as we've seen in the past few weeks overseas as well? And then, how much more so? Is this true on the personal on the private level? How do we plan for a future when tomorrow is not guaranteed, and we cannot control what is coming around the bend, when the future itself feels so uncertain? There's this oft cited adage from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. It what is missed in a statement is that the entire journey, all 1000 of those miles is made out of many 1000s of steps. Some steps have a clear purpose. When Avraham heeded the call lek likha go forth, when he packed his bags and gathered his family when he left his father's home and walked to the edge of town. Those are the steps that started his journey they had, they had a purpose a direction to them, and certainly when he arrived and cannot, and when he looked across the Jordan River, into the place where he would call home, the place where his children and his children's children will be born and buried the place where his descendants would grow into a nation. Who over the generations would arrive in this very room here together. Those are the steps that ended his journey, there must have been a sense of purpose of Oh, yeah, this is why I did this in the moment. Yet less clear and purpose are the steps that came between his departure and his arrival, the time he spent wandering in Egypt, which Sam so eloquently spoke about, his misadventures with neighboring tribes for Sam also so eloquently spoke about the conflicts that arose in his own family, which will come in the chapters we read, in the weeks ahead, from our perspective, standing outside of the forest, seeing the landscape, perhaps we can see how these events set the stage for his eventual arrival in Canada on and the fulfillment of God's promise. But I imagined for Avraham standing among the trees in the forest, there are times when the path forward fell unclear, if not utterly and completely unknowable. And so how much more brave? And how much more courageous how much more hopeful in that moment. And that moment, there's a lack of clarity, to take that next step. The thing is Avraham, I believe is not the exception. Avrom is the rule. I look around this room, many of you whom I don't know, but many of you who have the blessing of knowing well, and I see people who have become exactly who they have been called to be, who rose to the challenge and the opportunity of their own lack Lucha to journey themselves forward, because only themselves could fulfill that journey. Because they realized that where they were was not where they were meant to be, that there was something more something better, something more important that lay ahead of them. If only they had the audacity, the audacity to seek it out. A bar mitzvah, for example, who is stepping into his own as a member of this community, leaving the comfort and the convenience of childhood where so much of who you are is dictated by who you happen to live with, and finding your own unique place within the narrative where people are perhaps the father who enrolled in our exploring Judaism program, after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue four years ago, last week, because he realized the people in that sanctuary were not unlike the people in this sanctuary, people who he called family that he had a place to claim with an art community that only he could fulfill. Or maybe a bit closer to home, a rabbi who always thought that he would enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. They do it better outfits. But after experiencing painful ruptures, with his inherited faith tradition, set out to find a community that loved him for exactly who he was. And maybe another rabbi said You're not so far away from me, who decided to hang her shingle so to speak, not knowing how it would go? Or who might show up? Or if anyone would even care 11 years ago, if people did care, look at the room around you. I imagine there were moments when each of these folks and I know this to be true for myself making their way through the wilderness between then and now between who they were and who they felt called to be looked around and thought, what am I even doing here? Even holding that doubt, they persisted. Because who else could they be, other than the person who they knew that they wanted to become, and at the very least, they knew that they could no longer remain where they had been. Knowing that another destination lay around the corner, even if they weren't sure how long it would take to get there. And I think about each and every one of you, and I know each and every person in this room, perhaps on different points on different journeys, are all taking those steps step by step by step toward a fuller and bolder and more unapologetic expression of the person that only you can be the person that only you can be. For none of us are the person we were yesterday, or last month, or last year, how could we be? How could we be one for all of us? There is a left a call a purpose, a destination that only we can answer that only we can reach. And certainly these journeys take courage, and a kind of boldness to respond that invitation. But more so than that. I believe it is an act of faith. Now we're not a people who talk about faith very often. Jews in general, we're not really like a Moses, take the wheel kind of people. But here's the thing. Here's the thing, I am not talking about the kind of faith that is hands off our reliance on something outside of and greater than ourselves at the abrogation of our own agency and ability. Our tradition is very clear that we each of us are co creators, co creators in our own fate. I'm talking about the kind of faith that comes from the knowledge that even when we feel like we're wandering in the wilderness, the next step, the next step is yours to take. The next step is yours to take because only you can take it and the step after that. And the step after that. Journeying toward the promise that is you just as you are now and just as you were meant to be the you the only each and every one of you can become. Shabbat shalom.