ISSUES OF FAITH: Find a way to ‘venture into the wilderness’

IN A RECENT reading of the Torah portion, Lech L’cha (“Go forth”), Abraham and Sarah are told, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1-17:27).

Not only was it a journey into the wilderness, to a strange place, it was also an inner journey which was marked by the covenant between them and God.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner points out the deeper implications inherent in leaving all you know and going to a strange place in his book, “Honey From the Rock”: “The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. A place that demands being open to the flow of life around you. A place that demands being honest with yourself without regard to the cost in personal anxiety. A place that demands being present with all of yourself.”

Sometimes to discover who we are meant to be, we have to leave the comfort of what we think we know about the world, our beliefs and what we have been taught. We must find ways to “go into a wilderness” and be open to new ways of seeing things.

It’s not easy to contemplate different perspectives that can challenge our long-held beliefs. Seeing the world as black or white, my way is the only way, can cause us to harden our hearts to the beauty outside our cocoon.

We love the comfort of the familiar. We feel safe and secure, confident and protected. But by staying in that place we run the risk of never growing.

By not being open to other viewpoints, we can become fearful, and feel threatened rather than invigorated by new ideas.

As with a physical journey, when we pursue a new spiritual path, we don’t discard all our old beliefs.

We bring what we can with us and use it to create a new and more meaningful life. Though I left my original faith on my journey to Judaism, I carried with me many values from that tradition, and found a different path through which I could express them.

As I began my journey I realized that, as Kushner said, I had to be honest with myself “without regard to the cost in personal anxiety” and follow the path which led me to who I was truly meant to be.

My personal religious journey has been a study in lech l’cha, going forth to a new place that God would show me. All spiritual paths lead to what western faiths call God.

Though called by different names in other traditions, it is the same divine source of creation. When I found Judaism I knew I had “come home” to the place God had shown me.

Rabbi Karyn Kadar teaches us to be strong if we are drawn to find another spiritual path.

“We must not fear to venture forth into the unknown, with faith and courage and, most of all, with an expanded vision of who you can be.” (“God Whispers”)

Lech l’cha teaches that though such a journey can be frightening, we remember that Abraham and Sarah were blessed by God as they went forth.

If we find the courage to seek a path that helps us become who we are truly meant to be, we too will be blessed on our journey.

Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will. Shalom.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community. Her email is [email protected]

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