D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
A journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.
Taking that first step towards overcoming an obstacle can feel scary and intimidating. I remember the day I first realized I needed help. Married to an alcoholic, the disease had progressed to a place I could no longer handle on my own. I knew all my efforts to enable the alcoholic in my life were no longer working and I was left with two choices – get help or go down with the ship. I chose to get help but taking that first step was extremely difficult. Sitting alone in my kitchen it took two hours before I could summon the courage to pick up the phone and make the call that would change my life for the better.
As scary as that first step can be, in this week’s Torah portion Lech Lecha, it doesn’t appear at all scary for Abraham. He doesn’t hesitate when God instructs him to:
לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ
Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Gen. 12:1)
Abraham doesn’t hesitate to pick himself up and go with his family to an unrevealed destination – a destination to be determined by God. He packs his bags and with his entire family-- his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, and all his followers, embarks on what will be a most important journey. Maybe it helped that he wasn’t going alone and maybe his wealth made the journey easier. On the other hand, traveling with so many people and so many belongings could only make the journey more complicated.
Either way, Abraham doesn’t hesitate. As the father of monotheism, he makes the decision to turn towards the one God and turn away from the idol-worshipping gods of his past.
Journeys are intentional efforts to move beyond ourselves. When we embark on a journey we venture into unfamiliar territory in order to seek new challenges and find new answers. Like Abraham, we may not know what is out there when we embark on our journeys, but we are propelled by the opportunity to explore new worlds and ideas. Whether we are seeking a better life or just looking for an adventure, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.