This week’s Torah reading details the difficult journeys of Abraham, the first Jew. Abraham travels from his homeland to Israel and immediately a nasty famine breaks out. Was it is his fault? Not really. Was it bad PR? Definitely. New Guy shows up in a country, screaming about the oneness of G‑d, and crisis strikes. Abraham leaves the famine, runs to Egypt, and Sarah, his lovely wife, is abducted. Good times.
The name of the Torah portion is the “theme” of that portion. The name of the tough-luck Torah portion which recounts this story is “Lech Lecha.” In its most literal sense it means, “Go to yourself.” It is a command to Abraham, the first Jew, and the rest of us as well. “Lech Lecha” entails an inner journey to discover one’s essence, and to integrate that essence into our life and environment. It is a message of inner discovery that leads to movement in a positive direction.
The journey of life moves forward, but never stays on level ground.The title of the Torah portion (the supposed theme of the entire portion) is one of forward mobility toward spiritual achievement and G‑dly revelation, while the content of the portion seem decidedly negative and uninspiring. How do we reconcile the contradiction?
The journey of life is like a car that moves forward but never stays on level ground. We ride up mountains and into deep valleys. Life is similar. The objective is to see the opportunity for growth at every twist in the road, and keep on trucking.
On rare days, we coast along at the top of our game. We cruise the peaks of personal and spiritual fulfillment. Our role and place in the universe is apparent and we feel satisfied.
On the bad days, we careen out of control and into a valley of personal problems and issues. Our desire to “keep on keeping on” falters.
On most days, we sit in traffic and question if we are moving at all.
The lesson of Lech Lecha offers hope and support to those traveling through the ups and downs of life. We must recognize that the goal is forward movement. Hence, even a self-imposed pitiful state of being is a step forward in the journey. Just as Abraham needed to go to Egypt (in order to leave with great wealth), so, too, G‑d needs us to be where we are.
Although we should seek to correct the root cause of a particular downward spiral, we must also view the resulting situation as a Divine opportunity. We should not lose hope but rather pick up the pieces and continue forward.
This article originally appeared on the website Chabad.org.