The beginning of this week’s Torah story receives a lot of attention—and for good reason. It’s the tale of a traveler, a classic motif in literature, and Abraham’s journey is about as classic as they come. As in all such stories, our hero receives a call to action that disrupts life as he knows it and precipitates his departure. God commands, Go! Leave your country. Go from your birthplace and from your father’s home.
In Hebrew, God’s instruction to Abraham, lech lecha, functions as a clear imperative, a directive. Its literal translation, however, Go… to oneself! Go… to you!, is rich with the potential for interpretation. And, indeed, Abraham’s is a tale of self-discovery—as, in the end, are all Hero’s Journeys—with our protagonist ultimately setting us on a course of ethical monotheism.
On another level, the story is also about its figurative and literal destination. God’s commandment continues, Go… unto the land which I shall show you. The promised destination, as yet unrevealed to our hero, can be read as a figurative place towards which we should strive, a calling to ever improve—as human being, as citizen and a colleague, as friend and family member.
The destination is also literal, and I have walked where Abraham walked. Many of us have. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have dreamt of, toiled for, and now thrive in Israel. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have sought to realize the personal fulfillment of the figurative place to which God commands Abraham go.
For our community here in Colorado, programs like JEWISHcolorado’s Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour and our partnership with Ramat HaNegev have enabled hundreds and hundreds of us to establish a genuine connection with—and remain connected to—both our brethren in Israel and with the land itself. (Ramat HaNegev Regional Council Mayor Eran Doron is visiting Colorado, and I encourage you to join us as we welcome and celebrate his arrival, our longstanding friendship, and the bounty of the Israeli desert.)
We are not alone in our longing to enter, whether literally or figuratively, a place of home, a homeland. This past year, aliyah to Israel, facilitated by our partners The Jewish Agency for Israel, has increased 30%. Israel remains both a figurative and literal destination.
This Shabbat, may we all experience the joy that comes from finding a place of belonging, in Israel, among Israel, or wherever that may be.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.