A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step. How does a journey of three thousand years begin?
When Abram's father, Terach, leaves Ur to go to Canaan, there is no obvious motivation for this journey. In fact, he settles down before reaching his intended destination. Did he, like many of us, just get too caught up in living his day to day life, to finish his journey? Was he, unlike Abram, unable to see the possibilities of what lay ahead? Abram's journey, prompted by Y-H-V-H, takes him to a new place, physically and spiritually, that makes him a new person, evidenced by him receiving a new name. The Torah shows us a mature relationship between Abraham and God that includes questioning, obeying, confiding and making covenants with each other.
The Torah portion, Lech Lecha, (Genesis 12:1- 17:27) begins Abram's journey toward self-discovery and his deep relationship with Y-H-V-H. There were other journeys described earlier in Genesis of a distinctively different kind. Adam and Eve must make a journey out of Eden; Cain must journey after he kills his brother; the Tower of Babel builders are dispersed. What all of these earlier travels have in common is that they were undertaken as what may be construed as disciplinary acts or punishments, while Abram’s journey was a response to a divine invitation.
The God Abraham is involved with is very real to him. And the story of this relationship has seemed real for many who have heard it over the millennia. More recently there are those who are on their own spiritual journeys to find a way to experience this story as real, to come to have a relationship with the divine that provides guidance and strength, that helps give meaning to the words "a life well lived."
Two such spiritual journeys are described by the authors Nancy Ellen Abrams and Aviya Kushner. Their books, "A God That Could Be Real" and "The Grammar of God" respectively, come from nearly opposite perspectives. As different as they are, both tell of personal challenges that sparked each of the authors’ journeys. They begin with very different questions, travel different paths, and yet share the desire and an appreciation of the complexity of the journey to knowing God.
Each of us has our own spiritual journey to traverse. Sometimes, like Terach, we stop along the way feeling we've gone far enough. Sometimes, we need a little push to keep on the journey. Sometimes we need an invitation. And sometimes, we want guides or companions to journey with us.
Are you ready to continue your journey? Do you want a push, an invitation, a guide, or a companion? A journey of three thousand years begins with a single question.