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10.27.2017

PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 4:34 pm
by RabbiMark
“Your speed doesn’t matter; forward is forward…”
- The quote on my coffee mug

One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn is that self-care takes effort. It takes a tremendous amount of effort. It requires that I do things that I really don’t feel like doing. Laundry, gym, taking out the trash, going to the doctor, cleaning up my office - the list really goes long. And yet, I find that when I really engage in the act of self-care, I am able to be more fully present in the rest of my life. I find that when I do the self-work necessary for me to feel human and worthwhile, I am able to get closer to that ideal version of “Andy” that I set out for myself.

Despite all of this, I fail. Despite knowing that taking care of Andy spills out into countless ways in the rest of my life… I still find it difficult to engage in this needed work. Folding each piece of laundry, each step on the elliptical, paying each bill can sometimes feel like a monumental task. I can’t help but feel that I want to just be “done” - I want to check off the box labeled “adulting” and get back to just enjoying life. I can’t help but think that it would be easier to stop trying. I can’t help but feel like I would rather just stop moving forward - that it’s just too hard to engage in the work of self-care. Sometimes I get stuck.

Abram, our forefather, seems to be faced with a similar sort of dilemma in this week’s parashah, Lekh Lekha. At the end of last week’s parashah, Noah, we see Abram leave Ur Casdim, his homeland, with his father (Terah), wife (Sarai), and nephew (Lot) to settle in the land of Canaan. But something happens along the way. The family ends up settling in Haran, which is on the way to, but not quite, Canaan. Let me repeat that: the family starts out trying to get to Canaan but ends up settling in (or for?) another location altogether. They lose their forward momentum. They literally settle for something other than their intended goal. It would seem that they gave up. Haran was nice enough; staying there required little to no effort. It was easy. It was there. It wasn’t where the family was meant to be.

How often do we settle for convenience? How often do we neglect engaging the work that moves us forward? How do we avoid taking that next step?

And so it is in this moment of complacency that God speaks to Abram. Genesis 12:1 reads:
“The LORD said to Abram, ‘Go for yourself from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’”

This is Abram’s call to action, a call to move past his hesitancy and complacency to complete the journey he began with his father. Up to this point, he wasn’t in charge. He wasn’t taking ownership over the journey he and his family were on. So, God realizes that Abram needs a little kick in his tush, a not quite gentle reminder that he needs to get his act in gear and keep moving towards his destiny. As the Hebrew literally means he must “Go for himself” - he needs to finish the journey he started. Abram isn’t just heading to Canaan for no reason whatsoever; rather, he is continuing the path he previously abandoned. It’s not a matter of direction; it’s a matter of commitment. Commitment to himself, to his family, and (now) to God.

In the same way that Abram struggles to continue on the path he knows is best for him, many of us find it difficult to commit to the things that will help us grow and be present in our daily lives. How many of us begin a journey of growth and learning only to drop it months, if not weeks, later? I find that when I only commit to myself to do the right thing, whatever it might be - from eating well, to going to the gym, to taking out the trash - I invariably fail. I get stuck, like Abram, in my own complacency. I find myself giving up almost as soon as I begin.

However, if I understand these sort of commitments to be to myself, to my loved ones, and to God - I stand a better chance of actually following through. When I expand the circle of accountability beyond merely “me,” I am able to use them as vehicles for connection and meaning beyond myself. When we are able to understand that following through on “personal” commitments has lasting ramifications beyond the personal sphere, it is so much easier to take that next right action.

So whenever we get stuck, whenever we find it difficult to take the next action that would help us grow and be more present in the rest of our lives, I pray that we are able to remember to bring our loved ones and God into the equation so that we might be able to do for them what we are unable to do for ourselves alone.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Andy Markowitz