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TAKING A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

by Rabbi David Zauderer    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Tradition has it that in order for Abraham to merit being the father of the Jewish people who would ultimately bring Mankind to accept the sovereignty of one G-d, he had to first prove his greatness to G-d by passing ten tests of faith.

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Tradition has it that in order for Abraham to merit being the father of the Jewish people who would ultimately bring Mankind to accept the sovereignty of one G-d, he had to first prove his greatness to G-d by passing ten tests of faith.

One of the very first tests is recorded in the beginning of this week's Torah portion: "G-d said to Abraham, "Go for yourself, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing" (Genesis 12: 1-2).

G-d's command to Abraham and his wife Sarah to uproot themselves from their country of birth and their family and to journey to a different country, was one of the ten tests, for it is it never easy to start all over again, especially later on in one's life (Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65 at the time). Sounds pretty difficult, doesn't it?

Well, think about this. Imagine that you're living in a place where the people all around you were morally degenerate, the kind of place where anybody who tried to express any religious feelings would be laughed at and mocked. Although you grew up in that place and have very fond memories of your early years spent there, plus you are now firmly established in the community with a nice house and a good job, you would probably think very strongly about moving to a different area, difficult as it may be to do so. After all, how can you raise your children in a community which is entirely devoid of spirituality, ethics, and morals-things you hold so dear.

One day as you're sitting down to eat dinner with your wife, all of a sudden, the house goes completely dark, a tremendously strong wind starts blowing, and you begin to hear a very powerful voice. You somehow sense that you are in the presence of something greater than life itself. A powerful voice overtakes you both (as you fumble for your camera) and says, "I am the Lord, your G-d! I am commanding you to leave this town on the next train. This is no place for you to raise a family. As for your job and the stability you have enjoyed here in this place, I've already taken care of that-just go where I tell you and I promise that you'll have everything you've ever dreamed of-if you follow My command."

Would you leave now? I would.

Well, that's exactly what happened to our forefather Abraham. G-d Himself appeared to him and told him to go, promising him the most amazing things if he listened to Him. And these promises were not empty promises made by flesh and blood; they were guarantees by G-d Himself! So why exactly it this such a big test?

The answer might be found in a small word that G-d throws in when He commands Abraham to leave his native land. G-d says, "Lech lecha-go for yourself." Rashi, the preeminent Torah commentator, explains that G-d is telling Abraham to go for his own benefit and pleasure. In other words, don't just take this spiritual journey because I told you to do it, or because you sense that it's the "right thing to do." Do it because it feels better to live that way and because you enjoy it. And that's already not so easy to do. G-d can legislate actions, but emotions and feelings are a whole different story.

This test that Abraham went through is the test of our times as well. At a certain time in every Jew's life comes a moment of inspiration and enlightenment, when he realizes that it's not good for him to be where he is right now, and that it's time to make some lifestyle changes. Like moving to a more "religious" environment where the kids can get a better Jewish education. Or like taking time off from whatever we do on the weekends in order to go to synagogue to pray, or just to spend time with the family around the Shabbat table. Or like joining a Torah study group, in order to find out more about what it means to be Jewish, and why we're here altogether. But, believe it or not, that's not the hard part.

The real test is to see if we can make these lifestyle changes and actually enjoy it. To go for ourselves, as Abraham did. To realize that, ultimately, living a more religious life and doing all those things we never thought we would do, is not the stuff of self-sacrifice, but that it actually gives us a deep sense of meaning, and just plain feels good. And that's not easy. But, to use an old cliché, nothing really good comes easy. And to use another cliché-try it, you'll like it!

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Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.

You are invited to read more Parshat Lech Lecha articles.

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