Friday, October 15, 2010

Following Our Destiny

Some years ago Paul Cohelo wrote an interesting book titled "The Alchemist". In it he told a fable of a boy, a poor shepard, who had a vision that a great treasure lay waiting for him in a very distant land, far far from his home. The story is of the boys journey towards the realization of his dream, a journey that is replete with obstacles, distractions, and dangers, a journey of many years and even more encumbrances.

The end of last week's Parsha of Noach and the outset of the portion of this week of Lech Lecha gave mind to that compelling story. You may recall, at the end of last week's reading we first meet our father Avraham. We are told that he was born into the family of Terach, his father, in the land of Ur Casdim. Further we are told that Terach uprooted the family from Ur Casdim with the intention of migrating to Canaan. On the way he stopped in Charan and wound-up settling there. Eventually he died there, never making it to Canaan.

In the beginning of Lech Lecha, Hashem commands Avraham (then Avram) to travel to a land that he will be shown. Avram is promised that if he travels as G-d commands, even though he does not yet know the destination, he will be rewarded with great blessings, blessing that would never be possible for him if he remained in Charan.

In keeping with G-d's command Avraham takes his family and migrates. Where does he go? We would expect the verses to tell us that G-d, somewhere along the line, informed Avraham of where he is to go. But no, nowhere does it say that Avraham received instructions as to his destination. Rather the 'pasuk' tells us "And Avram took his wife Sarai and Lot, his nephew, and all their property and the souls he made in Charan and they left to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan." Only once he was there do we find Hashem appeared to him and told Avram that indeed this is the land that was destined to belong to his descendants.

The question is how did Avraham know where to go? How did he decide on his direction, his course? On the basis of what did he journey to Canaan?

I believe the answer is that even though Avram did not know what Hashem had in store for him as a final destination, he knew that if he was meant to travel it had to be to Cannan. Cannan was after-all the place his father was meant to make home. Life's issues got in the way and he settled in Charan. Yet Cannan was always the family's destiny.If Avram was going to travel at all, if he was to realize the blessings Hashem intended for him, he knew he had to get to Cannan. From there he might have to go to other places Hashem had in mind. But once given the command to travel it was obvious that Cannan was the direction. In the end,as it turned out, Canaan was not only the immediate destination but the ultimate destiny and home G-d had intended for Avram,for his family, and indeed for us.

What's the message here? My sense is that we are being shown an important truth for all of our lives. Each of us at one time or another has had a sense of a journey we were meant to make, a destiny or as we say in the holy language, a 'tachlis', a calling that was ours, our personal journey we were meant to make, one we may have long forgotten.What happened to our call. It may have gotten buried in the exigencies of life or neglected in favor of other more accessible goals. The price we may have had to pay to realize the call may have made our destiny feel unattainable. Or we simply may have given up in frustration and chosen another path.

In the end, not pursuing our personal call has had its consequences. It compromises our spirit and robs us of our 'joi de vivre'. Most importantly the blessings that were meant for us can never be gained. Our life lacks the gifts intended for us.

The story of Avraham's journey tells us that it need not be too late. Though Terach died and missed his call, Avram could yet realize it, and he was already 75! We need to go back and remember. What remains unfinished for us? What calling did we know way back when that we can yet reclaim. True it may have to take a slightly different shape, and it may not be the full measure possible for us in an earlier time in our life, but yet the call may well be redeemable, if only we give it the attention and priority it deserves.

What "lech lecha" is there for us in fulfilling a destiny yet unrealized? What blessing remains for us to claim?
Things to think about this Shabbat, things to excite the memory and imagination.
We are never too old to pursue our journey!

Shabbat Shalom!

1 comment:

  1. Paulo Coelho...The Alchemist is still my favorite book...I'm glad you remember the story.

    I hope you are well.