It’s an exciting time in the Jewish annual cycle because all the High Holidays have ended. We have gone through the Days of Awe, the observance of soul-searching, honest self-encounters and family dynamics and politics.
We have eaten our weight in festive meals and disoriented our minds with mid-week holidays. Temporary huts appeared on our lawns, we ate with rain dripping through the sukkah roof and we finished and began reading the Torah without the chance to catch our breath for a moment.
It’s the time of year when we crave a return to routines. Basically, I’ve prepped, apologized, atoned, fasted, eaten, shivered, shaken agricultural objects and danced and danced. I’m ready for normal.
And again, this is where the Torah steps in and reminds us that Judaism is constant movement – normal doesn’t last long.
The Torah readings at this time of year plunge us into the narratives of “Lech Lecha,” God’s command to Abraham to leave his homeland, the beginning of the Jewish vision, the Jewish journey. It is the narrative of endless exploration and discovery as well as growth and redirection, all of which occur with God as Leader and Companion.
As with most journeys that are life-changing, time must become irrelevant or the journey becomes about schedules and deadlines. God stands outside time and, as such, so does the journey of Jewish identity. The ‘Lech Lecha’ journey begins with Abraham and Sarah, but it cannot be completed by them. The journey of a life takes longer than a lifetime.
Our matriarchs and patriarchs show us that this particular vision they are shaping involves a departure as much as an arrival. When God outlines the journey to Abraham, the only thing that is known for sure is what he must leave behind, not where he will arrive. And what he must leave behind is everything “normal” that he ever knew.
The High Holidays throw us into turmoil so that we can come out of them at the other end ready to begin our Jewish journey this year and excited about where it might take us. We leave behind the negative patterns we challenged as we confronted Yom Kippur and the materialistic priorities we faced during Sukkot.
We begin our journeys with Abraham and Sarah. After all the work we’ve just been through, both physically and spiritually, we must begin to answer the ultimate challenge of who we will become this year. And the Torah tells us that whoever we define ourselves as in the coming months, God is excited to meet us.
Every year, we become someone new, we reinvent ourselves and recognize the adventure and opportunities that lie ahead. We have left behind the “same old same old” and are no longer moving through life with a normal “comfortably numb” approach.
As the midrash has explained, “Lech” means “Go” – God has commanded us to “go” on our journey, and “lecha” is God’s excited utterance of waiting “for you” – whoever the new you has become.
Rachael Turkienicz is the director of Rachaelscentre.org.