I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE
In this week's Torah portion, Hashem instructs Abraham, "Go for yourself, from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).
In this week's Torah portion, Hashem instructs Abraham, "Go for yourself, from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). This single verse poignantly encapsulates the fundamental challenge that every Jew is faced with. Abraham grew up in a community that shunned the idea that there is one G-d whom we serve. One can imagine his neighbors chuckling at the very notion that one could not simply do as he pleased. Abraham's own father dealt with idols and wanted to bring his son up in the family business. Amazingly, in an environment antithetical to monotheism, Abraham recognized G-d, and his responsibilities to his Maker.
Hashem tells Abraham to uproot himself from his G-dless society, and instead go to the land of Canaan, where he would establish a Torah-based society. There is a concept that "the acts of the forefathers are a sign for the children." We are to emulate the behaviors exhibited by our biblical ancestors. In many respects, we face the same societal pollution that Abraham did. He made the "unpopular" decision of devoting his life to G-d. Philosophically, we have a major decision to make from which all of our subsequent attitudes will be influenced. Either we live an autonomous existence, responding to no Higher Authority; or we live the way Hashem wants us to. Do we live for ourselves or for G-d?
For many of us, this choice - as huge as it is - is not presented objectively to begin with. We live in a society that champions personal freedom, individual expression, and living the American dream. From our most impressionable years, we are inundated with a cultural creed that doesn't place G-d first and foremost in our daily routine. Like Abraham, at whatever age we honestly face this conflict, we are asked to question a lifestyle that we have grown up with, a world where not only the general population scoffs at Torah observance, but sometimes even our neighbors, friends, and families. The Ramban, a 13th century Torah expositor, comments that the above-mentioned verse specified for Abraham to leave behind his land, kindred, and home to demonstrate the great difficulties one faces in objectively choosing G-d in light of one's established ways, friendship circles, and familial pressures.
Moreover, the Alshich, a 16th century Torah commentator, notes that the specific order of the verse's three references to upbringing suggests the increasing difficulty of putting G-d first. The closer to home we get, the harder it hits. One seeking to adapt Torah into his lifestyle will likely find it easier to do so when certain practices do not affect his relationship with co-workers, friends, and family. It is harder, however, when observances enter the domain of day-to-day interactions with those that are close. We are worried of losing ties, of being different, of making others uncomfortable with us. We do not want to rock the boat. We may be enticed to compromise what we believe to be the objective truth in order to salvage stability. The situation Abraham faced comes to teach us that there are hurdles to jump, but we can do it - we must do it. Life has many tough choices; even right ones!
Daniel Lasar writes from Wilmington, NC.
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