These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Getting “The Call”

Posted on October 31, 2014 by Jeremy Borovitz

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And the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you” Bereishit 12:1

It all seems a little bit redundant, doesn’t it? Why couldn’t Abram have just been told to go forth, or go forth from his land, or go forth from his land and his birthplace, and so on and so on. Wouldn’t a simpler statement, GO, have been simpler, more to the point?

Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch, the famed 19th century German commentator, says that each of these instructions refer to a different spiritual burden which Abraham had to cast off in order to head off into his new life. He had to leave his land, the national characteristics he had lived with, behind. He had to leave his birthplace, the place in civic society in which he had always existed. He had to leave his father’s house, from the nurture and care of your childhood home.

In my Senior year of college, I, too, heard “the call.” But rather than mine being a divine one (that would have been freaky) it was a pamphlet left on a random table It was an advertisement for the Peace Corps, and a combination of uncertainty about my future and youthful idealism led me to apply and eventual live in Ukraine as a Peace Corps volunteer for 27 months.

I think, in the end, that it was something like this experience which I always needed. I had grown up in a happy family, with friends, support, and love. But I still felt very stifled, as if there was a path for my life already plotted, no chance to choose my own destiny.

I had to leave my land, the culture I had always known, and discover a new one, in order to begin to determine who I was and what I wanted to be. I had to leave my birthplace, the friends and loved ones who had always supported me, in order to test my own ability to survive and thrive in an unsure environment. I had to leave my father’s house, and cast aside the expectations of my parents and community in order to blaze my own path.
God is preparing Abram for the journey of a lifetime; the repetition is for him to understand the severity of the leap he is about to make, the breadth of the gorge and what will be left on the other side.