“Live with the times.” It’s one of the essential precepts of Chabad philosophy, to experience each weekly Torah portion in a real and meaningful way in our own lives. When I was a mother of young children, this almost never happened. Sometimes the whole week would pass and it was only on Shabbos that I heard the name of the portion I was supposed to be “living with” all week.
But there was one portion I always “lived with”: Lech Lecha. First of all, it was our son Izzy’s Bar Mitzvah portion. Also, when G-d speaks to Abraham, separating him from the other nations of the world by giving him unique instructions to become the father of a G-dly nation, we get our marching orders as well. (See why we’re supposed to “live” with Abraham? He “lives” within us, his Jewish descendants.)
In Lech Lecha, G-d tells Abraham to “go.” In order to do that, he must “leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s house.” What that means for us is fairly straightforward, even though it’s meant to be a lifetime of work: my “land” is my will or desire, my “birthplace” is my upbringing and habits, and “my father’s house” is my human intelligence, which could easily convince me that I’m smarter than G-d.
“You go, girl,” I thought to myself when I discovered my inner Abraham.
And I went. But I quickly saw that there was more to the journey than packing in the mitzvos.
The ticket to a truly G-dly life also means dealing with my personal baggage–what to bring, what to repack, what to leave behind.
Of course, in His infinite wisdom, G-d customizes what we all need for our individual journeys; mine has been largely about what to do with the baggage of my “birthplace.” For years it felt that I could “go” but I could never really change the values I grew up with in the American culture.
I grew up living with very different “times.” The “times” I lived with had “New York” in front of it. To me, the perspective of the New York Times was the perspective of truth, what was good and what was bad, complete with its message that the wealthy, smart, beautiful, talented and successful people featured in its pages are somehow more important and happier than the rest of us. To be worthy, one had to be noteworthy.
But my inner Abraham said to keep “going,” which I did. And I kept asking for G-d to help me change my perspective, so I could see and value G-dliness, regardless of what the world values.
Thank G-d, I’ve come a long way in that direction.
I guess because I knew where I wanted to go, it’s been easier getting there.