What journeys have you taken? Where have they led you? How have they changed and influenced your life?
This week’s Parashah (Torah portion) Lech L’cha is all about life changing journeys and is often translated as “Go!” or “Leave!”
Our patriarch, Avraham, makes his first appearance in the Torah in Lech L’cha. He is directed by God to leave his home and family in order to begin his journey toward the foundation of the Jewish people. This requires him to be steadfast in his ideals and trust in himself.
Three and a half years ago I was devastated by the unexpected death of my father, Gary Romalis (z”l). This October 23rd would have been his 80th birthday, or on the Jewish calendar in a couple of weeks on the 18th of Cheshvan. His bar mitzvah Parashah was Lech L’cha.
He felt very connected to it. His Bar Mitzvah was clearly a momentous occasion for him – the beginning of his journey toward being a Jewish adult. As children, my sisters and I were reminded regularly of his affinity toward Lech L’cha.
One of the themes in Lech L’cha is moving ahead because your moral compass steers you down a path not taken – of becoming a reluctant leader because you must. Most people, when thinking of a Jewish leader, identify Moshe. Avraham was more of an individual. He led by example – Hadracha b’dugmah (leadership by example) – walking the walk, both literally and figuratively.
Avraham epitomizes the “heroism of ordinary life”, the title of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ thought-provoking and enduring D’var Torah from 2007. On one hand, my father was ordinary and on the other hand, he was quite extraordinary.
I can’t imagine that my father would have drawn a comparison between himself and Avraham but I would like to try. Avraham made decisions that were not necessarily popular but he felt strongly were correct. Both men stuck to their ideals. Professionally, as a doctor, and in his volunteer life with our synagogue, Jewish day school and the Jewish Federation, my dad often explained to us, his children, that he’d made an unpopular decision. Or, he’d suggest that he was stubbornly “sticking to his guns”. I know he made an impression on the medical world and Vancouver Jewish community. This was due in part to him doing what was right, even if many were opposed.
We all make choices about which path to take, when to follow and when to forge our very own path. Lech L’cha poses the question to each of us: Will we journey with our moral compass as our guide even though it can be a difficult and lonely road at times? Like Abraham and my father during his life, will we follow their example and do what needs to be done even if it’s not the easiest way?
The Jewish calendar started recently with Rosh Hashanah, and Simchat Torah marked the beginning of the Torah cycle. This is the start of our yearly journey. I’m looking forward to an exciting, interesting journey together this year.
Shabbat Shalom and Nesiyah tovah (enjoy the journey),