There are two ways to enter the land of Israel. Both involve great determination and struggle, yet only one provides an eternal guarantee. The call of secular Zionism to rebuild the Jewish homeland as a safe haven from the persecution of the exile was a noble and courageous mission. Yet one wonders if that calling would be enough to sustain the people through the alienation and the hatred that would slowly evolve and grow in this world.
Abraham’s experience with the land of Israel would be revealing;
We encounter Abraham with God’s declaration;
“And God said to Avram, “Go forth from your homeland, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.”( ; Genesis 12:1).”
We know very little of what preceded this declaration except the following;
27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begot Lot.28 And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.30 And Sarai was barren; she had no child.31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.”(Genesis 11:27-32)
These two attempts at entering the land of Israel ( Canaan ) are not read on the same Shabbat as they are very different in purpose and goals.
The first attempt to enter the land of Canaan was a noble but human attempt by the family to escape the idolatry and selfish life style of their native land. We learn from the text of a family in transit but are not told of their plans or purpose . We also learn that it was a family closely knit unit that experienced sadness and tragedy;
“And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his nativity.”
We also learn that they had a plan to go to the land of Canaan but did not succeed.
“They went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there”.
It is there that the patriarch of the family dies”And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.”
When speaking of the entry into the land of Canaan, their desire to escape a life they began to abhor would not be enough to maintain them towards their desired destination. The untimely deaths in the family put a stop to their plans.
Yet Abraham’s destiny necessitated a divine calling. Only in such a journey would he be able to overcome the challenges to come. We see that clearly after Abraham and his family follow through on G-d’s request. They are immediately met with a challenge;
“And there was a famine in the land, and Abram descended to Egypt to sojourn there because the famine was severe in the land.” ( ibid 12:10).
Yet that did not deter Abraham on his journey as he understood that all trials and detours are the necessary experiences that needed to be accumulated for the continuation of the journey.
The “eternal people have no fear of the long voyage” was the song that stirred the hearts of many of Israel’s young people. Yet such words would not be meaningful with the deep faithful awareness that they were on a “divinely inspired” long voyage.
Therefore the call of “Lech Lecha” is not simply a call for a physical journey.
It is a call to go forth into a destiny that beckons.
Therefore the more literal translation of “Lech Lecha” begins to be clearer. “Lech Lecha” literally means “ Go Into yourself” or “Go Into what is yours”. In both translations the Divine beckoning is clear.
That call of “Lech Lecha” is still being heard in the heavens. There are those who hear that call and continue the voyage with faith and courage. There are those that hear it and don’t understand the message but still feel the pull of this land. There are even those that hear the call but assume it isn’t meant for them and they continue to live in the threatened enclaves of the exile. And regrettably there are those that don’t hear the call at all. Their time will come as well , for all of the people of Israel will be ingathered.
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved