Abraham's journey is the supreme example of divine calling. His story models for us our own journeys of setting out on unmapped spiritual paths. It is a compass for our own travels and travails.
The parsha opens, “Lech Lecha, go from your land (artzecha), your birth-place (moladatecha), your father's house (beit avicha), to a land that I will show you.” In Likutei Halachot, Rav Noson writes that this refers to 3 things that every spiritual journeyer must turn their back on in order to advance in his/her own path of calling. These are the inevitable impurities and falsities that come with each of the following: the cultural mores of society, the traumas involved with our very birth process, and the patterns and complexities of our family of origin. He teaches that these negative aspects must be brought to consciousness and left behind. He says, literally, 'turn your back on them'. He adds that when we are able to do this then we are on the path to attaining our true 'tachlit netzchi' – our eternal purpose.
When we remove these negative aspects then what are we left with? We are left with our essential self, our truth, the soul that lies underneath. And thus our work is to remove the dross to reveal the gold of our soul. It is no wonder that the text spells out this formula so clearly in the parsha's first line, “Lech lecha”. Though it is commonly translated as, “You shall go”, that translation utterly flattens out the poetry and potency of the literal Hebrew. For this terse 2-word mantra Lech Lecha is read literally by the Kabbalists as - “Go to yourself!” And hence the biggest hint for all of us on our spiritual journeys. How to hear and follow God's command? How to extricate ourselves from the inevitable impurities of our past? By pursuing our own deepest self! That is the secret gift of the parsha. It persistently calls us – Lech – Go! Actively move in the direction of your deepest self. Leave behind family and familiarity and MOVE...to you.
The poem below is Abraham's letter, attempting to explain why he must leave behind his beloved "father's house".
Father, I leave you a letter
about leaving you
as sure as an out-breath
escapes the chest
that heaves the next inhale
- for we all have to breathe.
For I have heard two terse words
that disperse even the sturdiest soils
of my place of birth.
They hold for me
an undeniable truth
impossible to prove or tell or yell
or weigh its value
on a merchant's scale.
With pain and precision I have made this decision - to listen.
As if listening were an art
to record Divine diction
with all the weight of my earthly limbs.
is so concrete,
so clear and level, so rational.
While this voice
- well, its fluid & fanciful
and yet demanding.
Pounding proof into sounds
- which make no sound
- and yet deafen the ears of all around
- who listen well to their own
A still small voice with an unsettling lisp.
A voice that to be heard, it must be lived.
If belief is knowing that there stands a wall
then faith is leaning on it -
- And so I fall.
I lunge in to this journey to an unknown land
rock-strewn and sand-duned
so foreign from everything I ever knew.
and yet necessarily
far from you.
Faith is a wall
and so I lean.
God is a journey
and so I leave.