Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
(Go to Yourself)
Abram is called to leave his home and go on a journey. When he reaches the Land that God shows him, Abram has to leave it because there is a famine. He goes down to Egypt and back again, encounters many challenges, receives the blessing of Malchitzedek and is given a Divine promise. He has visions and makes a convenant with God.
WE ARE BLESSED THIS WEEK WITH A MAP for the spiritual journey: the soul’s path to awakening. I call it the “Covenantal Journey,” because it describes the maturation of the soul as it rises to stand in covenant with God. We begin this journey from wherever we are now. The invitation to embark is heard at the soul’s crossroad, calling to all that would hear.
It is Rumi’s invitation:
Come, come whoever you are! Wanderer, worshipper,
lover of leaving, come. This is not a caravan of despair.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve broken your vows a thousand times,
still, come, and yet again Come! (1)
Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger sees this as a journey of self-realization.
Go to the Land that I will show you – where I will make
you VISIBLE – where your potential being will be realized
in multiform and unpredictable ways. (2)
THE JOURNEY IS MAPPED IN SEVEN STAGES, mirroring events in the life of Abram/Abraham:
- LEAVING – Abram leaves his home, family and everything familiar to set off for the unknown in order to “become a blessing.”We sever the fixed identification with body, small self, social identity, and begin to re-integrate our lost essence, reclaiming parts of ourselves that got lost during the socialization process.
- DISAPPOINTMENT – As soon as Abram arrives in The Land, there is a famine, which necessitates the journey down into Egypt and back again.We discover that defeat can be a teacher as we learn to unmask even disaster as a blessing in disguise. The difficulties in our lives send us to our own depths where we find the core of our passion, vision, mission and love.
- DEVELOPMENT – Abram becomes a warrior in order to redeem his captive nephew, Lot.Becoming a spiritual warrior requires cultivating and honing the skills and courage that are required on the path. We nurture those qualities that will help us to redeem and maintain our own family ties.
- INITIATION – Abram receives the blessing of Malchitzedek who invokes “El Elyon” (the God Most High).There are moments of epiphany on the spiritual journey when we receive an initiation, enter upon a wider perspective and enjoy access to a greater flow of blessing. Our identification with that which is “The Highest” – El Elyon – lifts us up to a new level.
- EXPANSION – Abram looks to the stars (where before he looked to the dust) and receives a vision and promise of descendents and a place in the world.We expand our sense of reality and know that we are connected even to the farthest star. This vision sustains us through times of contraction (when we lose our conviction of that deep and wide connection.
- PROPHECY- Abram performs a powerful ritual and receives a startling vision, which reaches far into the future, through slavery and redemption.All of the hard work of spiritual practice brings us to a place of Prophecy, where the structures of Time and Space dissolve, and we can see the whole of our journey in this expanded moment.
- COVENANT – Abram is called into covenant and receives a piece of God’s name (the letter hey) incorporated into his own. As Abraham, he is given the mitzvah of circumcision as a physical sign of that covenant.We receive the blessing of God’s essence (Name) at the very core of our identity. Our calling is to reflect that core essence and allow it to shine through the prisms of our unique inclinations, experience and personality.
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE
HAVING A MAP and knowing that we are on a journey awakens us to the realization of the wondrous path we’ve traveled thus far, and to the road beneath our feet, which is fraught with dangers and strewn with treasures. We can use maps to orient ourselves, recognize landmarks on our way, discern when we’ve hit a dead end, and inspire us to new adventures.
EACH BLESSING ON THE JOURNEY OF ABRAHAM holds a challenge for the soul. Leaving the known world without knowing the destination, our challenge is to trust the journey itself and to risk being “no one.”
When we encounter disappointment or tragedy, we are challenged to surrender expectations and plant the seeds of compassion. Our lives become a journey of purification and as we are called into service, we are challenged to cultivate the qualities that are required for the work.
We are guided on the path just one step at a time as we seek out teachers, open to their wisdom, receive moments of initiation, and then spend years dedicated to integrating those moments.
Every initiation opens the way for an expansion of perspective and we are challenged to stay focused as we widen the view.
When those expansive states offer us moments of prophetic vision, the challenge is to allow those visions to transform our lives, moment-to-moment.
In accepting upon ourselves the covenant, the agreement to walk with God in simplicity and open-heartedness, we also take on the mitzvah of the circumcision of our hearts. Here the challenge is to continually cut through and release layers of distortion and defense that lay upon the heart, so that we can receive reality in its sparkling essence.
GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE
Either write in your journal or share with a Spirit-Buddy (3) remembrances of your own life path that correspond to the seven stages of covenantal journey.
1 The Illuminated Rumi by Coleman Barks (Broadway Books, 1997). Rumi was 13th Century Sufi Mystic.
2 Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger, Sefer Sefat Emet al ha-Torah u-Mo’adim, Lekh Lekha. I learned this text from Rabbi Art Green.
3 Spirit Buddies by Rabbi Shefa Gold.
Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.