Journey's are not only Geographical (Lech L'cha)

I want to talk about Geography.

Immediately after Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit, they hear the sound of God walking in the garden. They hide in the bushes, presumably ashamed at themselves for disobeying the one command that God gave to them. God then does something that God does not do too often in the Torah: God asks a question.

God called the human and said to him, 'Where are you?

It's an interesting question. Rashi points out that it poses a theological challenge because it intimates that God did not know exactly where Adam was hiding. There's a koshi here, a textual difficulty.

Rashi resolves the koshi by teaching us that God's exhortation to Adam was not a geographical question. God did not care about the latitude and longitude of Adam's physical coordinates. Instead, God was asking Adam a spiritual question. God asked Adam, In your life ... In your relationships ... Where are you?

Our spiritual location is much more important than our physical.

This is demonstrated by the difference between saying Ani po - I am physically here and the powerful admission of Hineni - I am fully present.

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In this weeks Torah portion, geography plays a central role.

In what may be the greatest act of courage and faith displayed in the entirety of our Torah, Avram leaves everything he knows behind to start a new nation. Speaking of physical geography, God does not tell Avram where he will end up, only that it will be a place of blessing and prosperity, and that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the sea. Please note that these promises are ones of spiritual benefit. Avram trusts in God, following the command of Lech L'cha, - go forth.

Here are the first few verses of this powerful portion:

God said to Avram, 'Go from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I'll make you into a big nation, and I'll bless you and make your name great.

The first verse appears to be one of geographical import. Abraham is to leave his land and go to a new place.

But there's something fascinating about this verse, but to understand it, I want to talk about how to get to New York City.

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Pretend that you are going to New York City and you want directions from Athens GA. It would make sense to say: Well, first you have to leave your house. Then you'll leave Athens. And after you leave Athens, you'll leave GA to make your way to New York. It wouldn't make sense to say: Leave Georgia, leave Athens, and leave your house. And yet, the order of God's command is exactly this kind of counter-intuitive description! I'll read it again:

Go from your land and from your birthplace and fro your father's house.

If giving geographical directions, the directions would be said in reverse: Leave your father's house, your birthplace and your land.

Yet again, this shows us that God is not concerned with GPS directions. God is concerned with spiritual directions. God knows that whereas the land is bigger than Avram's father's house, it is exactly Avram's father's house that looms the largest in his heart. And so, God says them in order of spiritual importance.

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There's one more geographical example that I'd like us to look at, and it's the name of the Torah portion, Lech L'cha.

It is commonly translated as go forth, as God commands Avram to leave his native home. But theres another interpretation that suggests that yet again, the command is not one of physical location, but spiritual growth.

In addition to meaning Go forth, it can also mean Go inside yourself. God tells Avram that by physically journeying, he will also start a spiritual journey that will bring him to his true self. Avram will become Avraham.

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And so it is with us. We journey, we travel. We move from place to place, sometimes in our neighborhood, and sometimes to far-flung places around the globe. But as we continue the journey of our lives, let us remember the spiritual journey that God continually calls each of us to embark upon: Lech L'cha.

Drawing Near to God (Vayera)

The Comfort of Noah (Noach)