This Week's Portion: Lech Lecha Go Out of Your Land
This week’s portion is Lech Lecha, which teaches us the importance of leaving our land and what is familiar. We witness this in the case of Abraham, who is told by G-d that he must leave his lifelong home and go to a new place that He will show him. This is the land of Canaan. Abraham agrees to this, although it represents one of 10 trials he will face on his spiritual journey, 5 of which can be found in this portion. When Abraham was told to leave, he was 75, which may seem old to embark on a fresh start. The Creator saw that he had achieved a high spiritual level in his lifetime. However, Abraham’s spiritual development was entirely the result of intellectual enquiry. He had a tendency to analyze, and that led him to greater understandings of spirituality. His approach had served him well up to a point, but G-d knew that for him to develop further and reach the next level he must experience the Creator in a deeper way. He had to really live that Godliness, as opposed to just thinking about it. This is why G-d decided to move Abraham from his land.
We each are made up of three elements: soul, body, and intellect. We can also see these three elements translated in our environment. The land that we live on represents our body; our birthplace is our soul — as it is where our soul was brought down — and our intellect is reflected in our father’s house, the place where we learn how to live. To leave these things, then, can represent a huge challenge to our feelings of self. However, for Abraham, this challenge was very necessary. He had learned a lot, so G-d sent him to spread the word and share his knowledge with new people. What is admirable about Abraham is that he was ready to do this — he didn’t shirk away from the command to leave his land. We can learn a lot from his example. Firstly, we can learn the significance of new land in relation to our spiritual development. Secondly, we can learn the importance of committing to the guidance of a teacher.
Let’s consider land in a literal sense. Not everything grows the same in the same soil. If you stay in one place your entire life, how can you be sure that you have reached your full potential? There may be a much better environment for you. It’s understandable to feel attached to the familiar; however, it’s important to ensure that a comfort zone does not become a crutch. After all, it is through novelty and the discomfort of the unknown that we refresh ourselves and become better. We are made humble by adopting the role of a beginner in new situations. Of course, in the times of COVID, we are not able to interact and travel with the same freedom as before. That means we must find ways to expose ourselves without necessarily embarking on a physical journey. Remember that Abraham was asked to leave so he could share what he knew. In our modern times, we have many tools at our disposal to do this. In fact, we’re using one right now! We can all use what we have to broaden our horizons and, in doing so, transcend what we already know.
This example communicates to us that there is a great risk in remaining too long in our land. But where is our land, specifically? It’s wherever we’re staying out of habit alone. This land could be a job that you’ve grown apathetic about. It could also be a relationship that you know no longer serves you. Maybe you’ve outgrown your city and you do need to physically relocate. Change can come in many ways; however, one way or another, it must come. Otherwise, we spiritually stagnate. The good news is that, when we move and try new things, we discover new blessings. Think about it: it is unrealistic to expect great gifts without making great changes. We are not Abraham; the Creator will not come knocking on our doors. We must instead take action and show ourselves to be open to His blessings. That means we must not simply settle with what we are used to. A spiritual journey is endless — that means we must be in constant motion to make progress.
Abraham showed his openness by accepting G-d’s request that he move. This is a great lesson for us, as spiritual students, too. In choosing a teacher, we should not expect perfection — that will only lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment. However, if we do choose to commit to a teacher, we must commit 100%. This is achieved by being truly open to their counsel. Commitment is part of showing character. If we halfheartedly subscribe to several teachers, we will learn much less than if we devote ourselves fully to one. Our job, then, is to find the teacher that works for us, and the surefire way to test this is to ask yourself — am I seeing positive changes in myself? Am I becoming a better person? For Abraham, that answer was yes, which was why he accepted G-d’s decision and moved to Canaan. He went out of his land for the greater good, and so must we.