God’s first words to Avram (later Abraham) tell him to move forward with his life, to leave what is familiar and set out for a destination that God will ultimately reveal to him. And because Avram trusted God, or because we wouldn’t have a story otherwise, he and his family leave Haran.
I recently watched a movie on Netflix called “Holiday in the Wild,” with Rob Lowe and Kristin Thomas, whom you might remember as Charlotte on “Sex and the City.” She plays Kate, a wealthy New York woman, whose husband announces he’s moving out less than five minutes after they’ve sent their only son off to college. She goes on their second honeymoon–an African safari–alone. Yes, there’s the requisite “romance dance” tension with Rob Lowe, but what this former veterinarian really falls in love with are the elephants. The two-week trip ends up lasting three months–through Christmas–and when she returns, her ex-husband asks, “Did you meet someone in Africa?” And she replies, “Yes, me. I met me.”
It’s entirely possible that this movie was made to shed light on the decimation of the elephant population in Africa, but I saw a “lech lecha” moment for Kate, who learned to listen to her heart. She returns to Africa and yes, she gets the guy.
In the context of our Torah reading, our great commentator, Rashi, notes that the words, Lech Lecha might be considered redundant. He understands them as “get thee out,” meaning, “go for yourself.” Go to a place where you will be blessed, where God will make of you a great nation–because you won’t have children here (in Haran).
We usually imagine that Avram is taking a huge leap of faith by starting on this journey at age 75, but if we see these verses as a continuation of the end of parashat Noach, we learn that the family was already on their way to Canaan; perhaps because it had been promised to their ancestors, or perhaps because it was a desirable land that according to Midrash, made people smarter. Also, it apparently hadn’t suffered the same climate changes as the rest of the world did as a result of the flood, so it made sense that they’d want to migrate there.
But does Avram realize that Canaan is where God will send him? Maybe and maybe not, but he trusts God, and sees an opportunity to become the person he is meant to be. Growth involves risk–at any age–but as we get older, we worry about the consequences of risk taking. After all, unlike former President George Bush, most of us aren’t jumping out of planes in our 80s.
I’ll stick to walking down the steps of an airplane when it’s solidly on the ground, but in all seriousness, being willing to take risks to find our passions, to lech lecha–go forth to our true selves, can more easily be understood and embraced when we have the experience, wisdom and discernment that comes from having lived life for a while.
May we be blessed to be open to the opportunities that come our way, and to be the blessing others need.