It is traditional to read either the creation story or the binding of Isaac on Rosh Hashanah. But I have often thought that the better Torah portion for New Year’s would be when Abraham and Sarah are called to begin their journey to a “land they do not know.”
Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of our cheshbon hanefesh, or personal accounting and inventory. Hopefully, we have prepared for this inventory during the month of Elul. Accounting and preparation are essential because how we account for the past is how we prepare for the future.
In Elul (the word in Aramaic means searching), we examine the mistakes of the past year in order not to repeat them. In particular, this means taking an honest look at what is trapping us and preventing us from truly moving forward.
In the portion Lech Lecha, G-d tells Abraham, “Go from your land, your birthplace, the home of your parents, to the land that I will show you.”
Even at a time before Google Maps and GPS, G-d’s command is rather odd because when you tell someone to travel, you usually specify the destination. Ordinarily, you don’t describe over and over again the point of departure. After all, we know from where we are leaving.
But here G-d tells Abraham to leave his land, his birthplace and the home of his parents — three descriptions of his present location. When it comes to the destination, G-d tells him only to go “to a land,” without naming it or even hinting at where it is.
In a drash from the Meaningful Life Center, we learn that Hasidic thought, which gives voice to the inner dimension of the Torah, explains that in truth this verse is a commandment issued by G-d to each of us: “Go on a journey of self-discovery. Leave behind anything that might hold you back. And then I will show you the landscape of your divine soul — the true you.”
If you want to discover your higher self, this is the secret.
The Ten Days of Atonement are a time for us to pack our bags — literally or metaphorically — and set out on a new path. But as with Abraham and Sarah, the destination is unknown.
What will the new year bring? We pray to be written into the Book of Life. In truth, to create meaningful change, it is just as important to know where your journey begins as it is to know the destination.
May we all be like our patriarch and matriarch and embrace the journey into the unknown and make of it an itinerary of self-discovery.