A few weeks ago I found a clip of an article published in the Chicago Tribune about “Eat, Pray, Love Tours.” Named after the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, they offer participants the chance to get away from their lives and routine and discover deep truths about themselves, their direction, priorities and passions and then leave the experience changed and transformed. Many of the people who have been on these tours return with renewed energy and motivation to make positive changes in their lives and much of the power and success of these tours is that they provide the opportunity away from the daily stresses of life to think about the deeper questions.
The notion that sometimes we have to leave the familiar in order to find clarity and the courage to take a different path is not new. In fact in our parasha this week Abraham, still Avram, goes on his own “Eat Pray Love” tour. Abraham receives a call from God: “lech lecha,” go, leave your homeland, your birthplace, your father’s house and go to a place I will show you. Now, if God were my travel agent I would be none too pleased, “leave, go, and I will let you know where later, just start walking.” And it is true that if the journey was all about the physical travelling then that would be less than satisfying. But I wonder if we read the command “to go” slightly differently we can find the reason why it does not say where Abraham is going. There is definitely a physical component to Abraham’s journey, he is, in actuality, leaving his home but there is a spiritual element as well and that is where the uncertainty lies. “Lech lecha” can be translated as “go to yourself” so maybe God is suggesting that Abraham leave in order to find himself.
The physical leaving could lead to a spiritual transformation, but the nature of that change cannot be known at the start of the journey, it unfolds along with the trip. If we look at the major characters in the Torah almost all of them go on a physical journey away from their homes and it is then that they make a significant change in their lives. It is a turning point for each of them and as a result their future is changed, their destiny altered. Abraham leaves his home and forges a new path for the people he will father. Jacob leaves his home and it is on the road that he encounters the angels, he meets his wife, he changes his life. Joseph journeyed to the land of Egypt, albeit not of his own choice, but his life path was completely transformed. So too Moses, it is in the land of Midian that he encounters God and is given his mission for the future. Each one of these great one found a destiny when they were away from their homelands, their nation and their familial home. And perhaps they were able to take that spiritual journey only when they were away from the confines, routine and strictures of their daily lives. It was necessary for them to be challenged, to be away from the safety and security of home for them to find what was truly important. And distance can also provide perspective and clarity which is sometimes lost in the daily grind and the noise and business of life.
Very few of us will have the ability to take journeys like Abraham or Elizabeth Gilbert but we may be able to experience some of the transformative elements of their travels. It can take seconds to get connected and get clarity about the things we want to be, do and have but often we don’t take the time to get connected. Most of our lives are busy, busy, busy. And perhaps that is the key and the wisdom. For many of us just getting by day after day fills our lives. There is little time or room to consider the bigger picture, to re-evaluate, re-asses, think about what we want from life and whether or not we are doing it. But if we made some time it could lead us in incredible new directions.
So as God calls Abraham this week to take some time away to think about what is important and what he wants from his life, God calls to us too, “lech lecha,” go to yourself, take a little time to answer some of the big questions.