, , , ,

Some time ago I was being given directions to a house in the Maryland countryside. Finally the voice on the other end of the phone said, “Turn right at the pond with the ducks and you’re here.”

“What if the ducks aren’t there?” I asked. “Don’t worry,” said the voice laughing, “you’ll find us.”

Every time I read this week‘s Torah portion, in which God says to Abraham, “Lech l’cha, get yourself up and go to a land that I will show you,” I think about those ducks. No AAA triptik, no GPS, no ducks. Abraham had only the commandment to get up and go.

His immediate response shows deep faith on Abraham’s part. Was this the first of the many trials with which God would test Abraham? If so, he passed.

My favorite part of the story is that Abraham actually did more than God commanded. The commandment was lech l’cha, a phrase that means much than its usual translation, which is simply go. It literally means “go for/to yourself.”

Abraham decided that it didn’t mean just himself. He took his wife Sarah, nephew Lot, and many others along with him. He brought money, possessions, provisions. He didn’t know the route, but he knew he was in for a long journey with an unknown destination, and he knew better than to go alone.

God was OK with that. God didn’t seem to mind that Abraham did it in his own way, in a way that would make him comfortable, give him companionship, and keep him safe. He may have had faith in God, but he also knew that he needed the company of other humans.

He depended on his wife Sarah quite a bit during their journeys, and I sometimes wonder how the Akedah, the near-sacrifice of Isaac on Mt. Moriah, would have turned out if he had brought her along then too.

The Unitarian minister Robert Fulghum famously wrote a list of things he learned in kindergarten, which he believed were important to remember throughout our lifetimes. The very last was this piece of advice: “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

It’s good advice. It was true in kindergarten, true for Abraham and Sarah, true for us today. Stick together and take good care of each other, and hold hands.