A drash on Parshat Lech Lecha

Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27); Diane was the Torah reader, and I gave a drash (interpretive reading) on the portion, which I thought I’d post here.

“Go forth from your native land and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…and you shall be a blessing.” That was God’s challenge to Abram. And Abram accepted the challenge.

But every day, we face a similar challenge. Every day, we must leave what we know and face the unknown – the future. Some days, the journey is easy. Other days, the journey is difficult. But when we set out, we never know what to expect – we only know that today will be different than it was yesterday.

God told Abram to go forth, and he did. But he did not go alone. He brought his wife, his nephew, and his household on the trip. Similarly, we don’t face the future alone – we go with our families, our neighbors, our country, and the rest of the world. Not everyone will help us on our journey, but we need to be mindful of our companions.

And, of course, God went with Abram. Does God go with us? Perhaps not in as direct a form as Abram saw and heard, but if we want God’s company, we can have it.

Abram faced obstacles on his journey, as do we. Since 9/11, some of those obstacles have seemed a lot bigger. Remember when the biggest worry about the mail was getting rid of the junk? Remember when CNN didn’t have a constant war ticker on the bottom of the screen? Remember when airport security was just an annoyance?

I know I spent the first month or so after 9/11 in a funk. I watched more TV news that month than I usually see in a year, and I checked news websites every few minutes while I was at work. And at the end of every day, I felt that I hadn’t done anything.

But a couple of weeks ago, things changed. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but somehow, I realized that I had a life to live. I started getting work done at work again. I started to read things other than the news. I even started watching TV for fun (mostly reruns, of course!).

I realized that the terrorists’ main objective wasn’t crashing four airplanes. It wasn’t knocking down the World Trade Center. It wasn’t even killing thousands of people. What they wanted to do was simple: they wanted to force people to stop living their normal lives. To stop looking forward to each day’s journey, but rather to fear it. And they had done it to me, at least for a while.

This week, I went forth. To Atlanta, for my first business trip since 9/11. I can’t say that I was really looking forward to the hassles – but by the time my first flight landed, I felt far better than I had for a long time – even though the airport was strangely empty and hushed, and even though the news on CNN was still bad. I was back on my journey.

Abram’s journey continues after the end of today’s parsha – we know of the challenges he has yet to face, and how he’ll respond. We know that God’s promise is fulfilled, and that Abram is the ancestor of a great nation. We don’t know what lies ahead of each of us on our journey, but at the end of every day, we can look back and see what progress we made. Did we learn? Did we grow? Did we contribute to tikkun olam? Were we a blessing?

Shabbat shalom.