Once or twice in a lifetime
A man or woman may choose
A radical leaving, having heard
Lech lecha — Go forth.
God disturbs us toward our destiny
By hard events
And by freedom's now urgent voice
Which explode and confirm who we are.
We don't like leaving,
But God loves becoming.
Rabbi Hirsh refers to the watershed event that occurs at the beginning of this week's reading from the Torah, when God speaks to Abram and says, "Lech lecha, go forth (for yourself) from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing" (Genesis 12:1-2).
What might this moment have meant to Abram? What was it like for Abram to hear God's voice, to hear such a call, to be presented with a promise, so ripe with potential? What would it have meant for him to uproot his life and embark on a journey toward unknown destinations? How, in that moment, could Abram be trusting, unquestioning, and seemingly faithful?
As we awaken this morning, as some of us take our children to school, and others set off for work, we find ourselves at a crossroads, at the beginning of a new reality for our country, and for our lives. For some of us, this moment has been a long time in coming. It represents the very core of American democracy, depicts people throughout our nation stepping forward to vote, and using their vote to ask for a "radical leaving," a departure from the status quo within our government, hoping that our nation will "go forth" in a remarkably different direction.
Others among us are disturbed and frightened. This isn't the destiny that we chose or desired, but in all elections, there are winners and there are losers. We know this reality and we have no choice but to accept it.
But there is still an "urgent voice" that needs to be heard, an "urgent voice" that we need to heed, an "urgent voice" that will ultimately "confirm who we are," as individuals, and more importantly, as a nation. In the Jewish community, we are the bearers of an ancient, seemingly timeless tradition, in which God calls upon us to "love our neighbor as ourselves," God commands us "to defend the rights of the poor, the orphan and the widow," God reminds us "to love the stranger in our midst because we were strangers in the land of Egypt," and God teaches us to refrain from slander, to pursue justice, and ultimately, "to choose life."
Once Abram embarks on his journey, God chooses to establish a covenant with him, the beginning of a covenant that we retain to this very day, a covenant that places us in shared obligation with God, and with one another, to bring light, blessing, and healing into our fractured world. The leadership of our nation may have changed last night, but our commitment to our values as a people, and our commitment to our covenant with God and humanity remain ever solid.
Rabbi Hirsh is correct. There are many among us who "don't like leaving." But Abram's journey is ultimately one of "becoming." What will our nation become? What values will we articulate? How will engage in the civic processes of our country, ensuring that our voices will be heard? God is saying lech lecha. As we leave behind what is familiar, as we leave behind what we know for an uncharted destination, together, as a community, as a people, as a nation, we begin Abram's journey of becoming anew.