When visiting my nephew several years ago, we went to a playground because he loved the swing and slide.
Upon our arrival, though, we found a brand new slide — a curly and twisted one that replaced the old straight slide.
At first, my nephew did not want to ascend the slide because it was not the one with which he was familiar. It was not what he had known. A change had occurred.
Change is a central idea in this week’s Torah portion. G-d says to Avram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Avram responds to this divine command by leaving behind all that is familiar.
If you stop and think about it, this is an incredible feat. How many of us find it challenging to change jobs, move to a new city or buy a new home? Our youth find it difficult to change schools or switch to a different sports team. But these changes are small potatoes compared to the changes in Avram’s life. We are creatures of habit — we like that which is known and familiar.
So why does Avram follow G-d’s command? Perhaps the answer can be found in a midrash that understands the command Lech Lecha as meaning, “Go forth to find your authentic self, to learn who you are meant to be.”
Prior to being called by G-d, Avram was not a notable man. The Torah does not even call him an ish tzaddik, a righteous man, as it does Noach. Avram had not yet accomplished anything of major significance. But he was willing to follow G-d’s command and find his true potential. He was brave enough to face himself and learn who he could become.
By the end of his days, Avram (later Abraham) became a prominent man. He was our first patriarch; he rescued his nephew Lot from harm’s way, and he even had the chutzpah to challenge G-d in the name of justice, as he tried to save the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. If Avram had not left Haran, he would not have had any of these experiences. By going on his
G-d directed journey, Avram reached his potential and learned who he was meant to be. May we, like Avram, find our authentic selves as we climb new ladders and begin new journeys each day.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)