Written by: Hanna Carr, NFTY-PAR RCVP
From the very first line of this Torah portion, Lech Lecha, Abram, soon to become Abraham, is tasked with a heavy burden: he is told to leave his home, his house, and his land, all because a strange God told him to do so. Although the Torah seldom provides details about emotion, it is safe to assume that Abram was puzzled and nervous about what God had in store for him in a strange unknown land. However, strictly reading from the text, it appears that Abram simply packed up and left, following God’s instructions. Why does Abram do this? Why is he so nonchalant about leaving his whole life in Mesopotamia for a new life in who knows where? Some tell the story of Abram defiantly smashing idols in his youth as a justification for his willingness to accept God’s proposal. But perhaps it was more than that. Perhaps it was a flexibility that we could all learn from.
As humans, we are programmed to avoid change. We thrive in our comfort zones, and when asked to change even a miniscule element of our status quo, we often freak out. Personally, I am a self-admitted control freak. Whether I am working on a group project, a program, a service, or just interacting in daily life, I strive to keep a close grip on every element that could possibly go wrong. This burdensome need for control has caused me both great triumphs in life and great rifts in my personal relationships. I have been called “bossy,” “uptight,” and “controlling,” and I am all of those things whether I like it or not.
So, in light of all of my controlling tendencies, I have found that some of my most rewarding moments have come when I have loosened the reins and stepped out of my comfort zones. In placing my trust in other people, as Abram did with God, I find myself more able to relax and focus on my personal priorities rather than trying to micromanage everything. Indeed, perhaps after a long life of nearly 100 years of building a family and a flock, Abram was ready to let go and place his trust in another. Perhaps we can all learn from Abram to be more flexible and ready to step outside of our comfort zones when the time comes. There is value in “mixing it up,” trying something different, and learning from it. In fact, this is one of the reasons that the NFTY-PAR board decided to shake up the schedule for this event. Shabbat morning services…in the afternoon? Beit Midrash in the morning? The whole basis of this shift is that to keep our programming lively and interesting, sometimes we need a break from the status quo.
Whether in school, our friendships, or our extracurriculars, sometimes we need to step outside of our comfort zones, just as Abram did, to enrich our lives with the flexibility to say “yes” even to life’s most unpredictable moments. Shabbat Shalom.