This week’s parashah has one of the most compelling and memorable lines in all of Torah:
The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).
This instruction from God to Abram comes with virtually no context, as does Abram’s response. “Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him” (12:4). At this point, we don’t have many details about Abram’s life or his personality; we have very little information that could explain why he made such a decision.
This lack of information is an invitation to imagination, to our interpreting the Torah through the lens of our own life and our own experience. Some of us, like Abram, have physically moved away from our land, our birthplace, and our family to live in a different land, to make a new home. We have taken the risk of leaving everything behind because we know that we must make a change, that we must do something different. We can relate through our own memories of fear and excitement to imagine what Abram must have felt like as he was packing his bags, making ready for the journey.
For us in the Beit T’Shuvah community, we can relate to this moment of Abram’s life through the lens of our recovery. When we come out of our addiction and move towards a community of recovery, we are leaving behind a pattern of actions and behaviors that, while causing wreckage in our lives and our families’ lives, made us feel safe, made us feel at home. Perhaps these are the only things that made us feel that safety of home; perhaps we could not have imagined another way to be.
When we enter a community of recovery, we are journeying toward the land that our Higher Power will show us. We have no way of knowing what it will feel like to be thirty days sober. We have no way of knowing what will happen to us when we begin to open up to our treatment team about the events of our past that still haunt us. We have no way of knowing what it will feel like to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and share it with another human being. We must go forth to the land that we will be shown, and this takes tremendous courage.
This year, as the restrictions and dangers of our global pandemic have arisen and still persist, all of us have been forced to begin a different type of journey, one that also demands tremendous courage. God’s command to Abram in the Hebrew text of the Torah, is Lekh Lekha, which we translate to mean “go forth,” yet literally means “go to yourself.” In the early days and months of the pandemic, I spoke to several people in recovery about the spiritual challenge and the spiritual opportunity of needing to step back from our friends and communities and spend more time with ourselves. One person said she had never felt more connected to her Higher Power; another said she had never before been forced to sit with herself and make peace with her deep-seated issues, and given this challenge had made unprecedented spiritual progress.
I am inspired by these stories of success, and at the same time, I look ahead into the ongoing journey of our pandemic times with a profound mix of feelings. I am inspired by the possibility of positive change given these new challenges, and I am sad that the gatherings and activities I used to enjoy are simply not safe right now. I am grateful to have more time to spend at home, and I am angry that I can’t spend more time with friends and family. And of course, there is a part of me that is afraid that this is going to continue forever. Perhaps it is the same part of me that I struggle with in my recovery – the part of me that doubts I am capable of change.
Yet as I read our parashah anew this year, I find comfort in the thought that Abram might have felt much like I feel right now: grateful and yet angry, afraid and yet inspired. And I think of the few details that we do have about the beginning of Abram’s journey – that he set out on this journey to the unknown not in utter solitude but with a few close people around him: his wife, his nephew, and his household. I find comfort in recognizing that, like Abram, I am journeying into the unknown future with my own close people: my family, my friends, and my Beit T’Shuvah community.
This week – and this season – may we find inspiration in remembering that our ancestors in Torah faced a journey into the unknown with courage, and with the ability to take God’s direction. May we feel connection to our ancestors in Torah who acted with courage even as they grappled with a range of emotions that threatened to displace it. And may we reach out to our close people and to our community; and as we connect, may we feel a deep sense of safety, and a profound sense of home.