12 Oct SHABBOS IS IN THE AIR: LEAVING OUR COMFORT ZONE
Avraham Avinu, our father Abraham, the first Jew.
Avraham grew up in Ur Kasdim, living in a world of idol worshippers. Despite that, he believed in a G-d above. He came to that understanding on his own, without teachers, advisors, mentors, or parental influence.
How did he do it?
The Midrash tells us that as a young child, Avraham had an inquisitive mind. He looked at the world around him, and came to the realization that there must be a Creator. Sun, moon and stars didn’t just fill the sky. Trees, grass, flowers, lakes, rivers, oceans and mountains didn’t just pop up. There must be a Master Planner. In order for the world to exist, with all its beauty, and all of nature working together in harmony, there must be a G-d above.
When our children were younger, we often went upstate for Succos. An added bonus to the trip was seeing the most magnificent foliage. I would ooh – and ahh as we drove on the Palisades and then onto Route 17, pointing out the sunny yellows, vibrant reds, and warm oranges, all glistening in the sunlight. The leaves seemed to be dancing in the wind, whispering a message… nothing just “happens”….. the world is HaShem’s creation.
To me, it was a “mah raabu ma’asecha HaShem” moment, “How many are Your works HaShem.” “Kulam bechochmoh osisoh, moloh ha’aretz kinyanechah, All of them You have made with wisdom, the earth is full of Your creations’ (Tehillim/Psalms 104:24).
As a painting has an artist, our world has a Creator, “the Ultimate Artist”.
Emunas HaShem, belief in HaShem, became part of Avraham’s spiritual makeup – an intrinsic force within him. My mother, the Rebbetzin a”h, would speak about our spiritual DNA. She explained that just as we inherit hair color and eye color, musical talents and artistic talents, so too do we inherit spiritual genes.
Avraham’s spiritual genes were so powerful, so deeply embedded, that they were able to be passed down from generation to generation, creating a spiritual link. We, the grandchildren of Avraham, merit to carry that spiritual DNA.
Generations later, Rabbi Akiva, like his “zeide” Avraham before him, taught an agnostic to see HaShem in the world around him.
The Midrash relates that once a heretic asked Rabbi Akiva, “Who created this world?” Rabbi Akiva replied, “HaShem.” “Prove it”, said the heretic. Rabbi Akiva replied, “Come back tomorrow.” The next day, when he returned, Rabbi Akiva asked him, “What are you wearing?” The heretic replied, “A garment.” Rabbi Akiva asked, “Who made it?” To which he answered, “A weaver.” “Show me proof,” said Rabbi Akiva. “Don’t you know that the weaver makes clothes?” Rabbi Akiva then asked, “And don’t you know that HaShem created this world?” After the heretic left, Rabbi Akiva’s students asked him, “But where is the clear proof?” Rabbi Akiva responded, “Bonai, my children, just as every house has a builder, a garment has a tailor, and a door has its carpenter, so does the world have a Divine Creator.”
“…Lech Lecha, mei-ar-tze-cha, u’mi-mo-lad-techa, u’mi-bais avi-chah… Go for yourself, from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s home” (Bereishis/Genesis 12:1).
The parshah opens with HaShem instructing Avraham “Lech lecha, go for yourself” – which Rashi explains to mean “for your betterment, for your own sake, for your benefit”. Embark on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth.
What a challenge!
How difficult it must have been for Avraham and Sarah to uproot themselves and leave everything behind. To start anew. Imagine embarking on a long journey, not knowing where the destination is, or when you will arrive.
I think of Sarah Imeinu, packing up all her belongings. “Where are we going?” she may have asked Avraham. “To the land that HaShem will show us”.
Would we have the courage to move to a new country without checking it out first, or even asking what will it be like, what will we find there, who will our neighbors be?
Avraham and Sarah’s emunah and bitachon, faith and trust in HaShem, was so strong, that they were able to pick themselves up and travel to the unknown.
“Lech lecha – Go for yourself”. Meaningful growth entails rising above the challenge, and at times leaving our comfort zone.
While we don’t have to traverse the hot desert sand, there are times when we too leave our comfort zones, the life we are familiar with and accustomed to, and push ourselves to reach greater heights.
Lech lecha, Go for yourself. As the shorter days are approaching, do we rush into Shabbos, or do we “bring Shabbos in” with calm and serenity? As we sit with our family, do we make that extra effort to transform our Shabbos table into something truly spiritual and holy? Do we fill our home with a warm and loving atmosphere? Do we extend ourselves to do more chesed, to give more tzedakah, to be more careful with our words, with kashrus? Do we commit to daven from our siddur or Tehillim/Psalms more diligently and with greater kavanah, concentration? Do we make the pledge to open a Torah book more often to study? All of this requires leaving our comfort zone.
Lech lecha – “Just do it” – for yourself, for your family, for the Jewish people.
The Midrash in Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabbah teaches us that we must ask ourselves, “Mosai yagiu ma’asai l’ma’asei avosai, When will my actions, my deeds reach the level of the deeds of my ancestors?” Is it possible? Can we actually aspire to be like our Avos and Imahos, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs? Can we truly achieve the level of the holy generations before us?
Yes – we can! For we are the proud carriers of their spiritual genes. We only have to look at their lives for hope and inspiration. We have the power within us to follow in their ways.
We are Avraham’s grandchildren. As Avraham found the inner strength and courage to stand up for what he believed in, so too, can we.
HaShem promises Avraham, “Va’avorechechoh, va’agadloh sh’mechoh, ve’heyei berachah. I will bless you and make your name great. And you shall be a blessing”.
We have a sacred obligation to bring blessing to the world around us, to make the world a better place. In turn, we will see that HaShem’s blessings will be with us.