Today is the fifth day of the Omer, five days into the 49-day journey from Egypt to Sinai to the receiving of Torah.
We Jews are a people on the move, journeying from one place to another.
- Our existence began with a call to set forth: Lech lecha, God said to Avram and Sarai – Go for yourself from your land, from the place of your birth, from your father’s home, to a land that I will show you. With few words, God sent our ancestors off on a journey for their own benefit, on a trek that would help them find their true selves. Off they went, to find their destinies and to become a blessing.
- The transition between generations – from Abraham to Isaac – also began with a call for Abraham to take his son on a journey, three days out into the land of Moriah, to a place that God would show him. Whether for sacrifice or for a spiritual experience, this desert trek transformed both participants, encoding a terrifying experience into their hearts and our history.
- On a journey to meet up with his brother Esau after 40 years of separation, Jacob pauses for the night and awakens to find himself wrestling with something – an angel? himself? his conscience? There his name is changed from Ya’akov (the one who tries to hold another back) to Yisrael (one who struggles with God). From there he limps off to become a blessing, to assume his role as the father of a great people.
- On a journey in the wilderness, chasing after a stray lamb, Moses slows down enough to notice that a bush burns but is not consumed. There he hears God’s call: to become the mouthpiece of holiness, to speak truth to power, and to emancipate his people Israel from under the yoke of a tyrant.
- Then as a whole people, we embarked on a journey, with Moses, Miriam and Aaron leading them. Out of Egypt, up to Mt. Sinai, and later for 40 years wandering in the desert. Reborn after passing through the metaphoric birth canal of the Red Sea, our people Israel met the Holy One at the holy mountain, receiving Torah and becoming a holy people.
So many steps taken by so many of our ancestors, traveling to find themselves and discover their true calling.
How much strength they must have had to take leave of the familiar!
How courageous they had to have been to embark on a journey to the unknown!
Can we even begin to understand the internal struggle, the conversations inside their heads?
And stil, this one up and leaves (Avram). And then answers a divine call (Avraham). This one stops running long enough to wrestle with his inner voices (Jacob). And that one slows down enough to witness a miracle (Moses).
We Jews embark on these journeys not because we want to, but because journeying itself is encoded into our very DNA. Always on the move, always seeking to discover our destiny. From slavery to freedom. From pain to healing. From hopelessness to hopefulness.
What journey are you on?
Are you ready to answer the call?
God promises that once we embark, we shall become a blessing. To ourselves and others.
So take a chance. Step out into the unknown. And may your journey be blessed.
Today is the fifth day of the Omer. I am off at Congregation Or Ami’s Seder in the Wilderness. And as my wife assured me, once I ventured forth, I am having a great time!