Parshat Lech Lecha
Ten generations have passed since Noach. Man has descended spiritually. In the year 1948 from Creation, Avram is born. By observing the world, Avram comes to recognize
Life in the Fast Lane
"Go for yourself" (12:1)
Very soon, only the speed of light will limit our ability to communicate a thought, a picture, a sound or a sentence from one side of the world to the other, and beyond. The meaning of the word "distance" has changed forever.
Just as the electron has shrunk our world, so too there has been a quiet and maybe even more fundamental revolution in the way we look at travelling. We see nothing special in the fact that several hundred people can file into a large metal room and find themselves on the other side of the world in a matter of hours.
A little more than a hundred years ago, to circumnavigate the globe would have required months of arduous, dangerous and expensive effort, almost beyond our imagining. Nowadays, the major drawback in circling the earth in a plane is an aching back from sitting in a reclining chair that doesn’t quite live up to its name. We have breached the last frontier. Distance has become no more than a function of time spent in a chair.
The electron and the 747 have had their impact on our culture in other ways. Our cultural mindset mandates that speed is of the essence. “How fast can I get there?” vies in importance with “Where am I going?” Immediacy has become an independent yardstick of worth. How fast is your car? Your computer?
Our age has sought to devour distance and time, rendering everything in a constant and immediate present. Now this. Now this. Now this. (Interestingly, the languages of the age — film and television and computer graphics — are languages which have trouble expressing the past and the future. They only have a present tense. Everything happens in a continuous present.)
All of this makes our spiritual development more and more challenging. Spirituality is a path. And, like a path, you have to walk on it one step at a time. Your fingers cannot do the walking on the spiritual path. You cannot download it.
Everything in the physical world is a paradigm, an incarnation, of a higher spiritual idea. Travel is the physical equivalent of the spiritual road. The quest for spirituality demands that we travel, but this journey is not a physical journey. Many make the mistake of thinking that hitchhiking around the world and experiencing different cultures will automatically make them more spiritual. The truth is that wherever you go, there you are. When your travel is only physical you just wrap up your troubles in your old kit-bag and take them with you.
Spiritual growth requires the soul to journey. Our soul must notch up the miles, not our feet. The spiritual road requires us to forsake the comfortable, the familiar ever-repeating landmarks of our personalities, and set out with an open mind and a humble soul. We must divest ourselves of the fawning icons of our own egos which we define and confine us, and journey.
Life’s essential journey is that of the soul discovering its true identity. We learn this from the first two words in this week’s Torah portion: "Lech lecha.""Go to yourself." Without vowels, these two words are written identically. When
Avraham experienced ten tests in his spiritual journey. Each was exquisitely designed to elevate him to his ultimate spiritual potential. When
We "go to ourselves."