And Hashem said to Avram, “Go (to) (for) yourself, from your land, from your birth place, from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. (Breishis 12:1)
Embedded in these first words spoken directly to our patriarch Avraham Avinu is the beginning of our mission as a people. One oddity that I continue to cogitate on year after year is that HASHEM did not give Avraham a specific address, an exact location of where it is he is to begin going to. Why not tell a person where he is going? I have been collecting insights now for quite a while and a new one occurred to me just this morning.
I found myself galloping through Davening this morning, rushing to the end when suddenly I arrested myself with this thought, “Where are you hurrying to already!?” I decided to slow down and to drink in every word as if I was sipping a hot sweet tea. Then it occurred to me that this exercise might just be another valid answer to that question. Why not tell Avraham precisely where he is going?!
If Avraham was given the name of the location he was to head to, he might just get the misimpression that the goal is just to be in that place. Now we can see that it is not only an instruction to relocate from one geographic station and to anther spot on the map. This is not a horizontal journey at all.
Rather., it seems that HASHEM wanted Avraham to revel in the process, the struggle, and to discover the sweet taste of success in every step. It’s not in arriving that the purpose of the journey is accomplished but in the journey itself. The train is always arriving but never arrives. Rebbe Nachman said, “Wherever I am going, I am going to Jerusalem.” It may be a circuitous route but we are still going and going. That may be at the heart of these instructions.
We find at the very beginning of creation, HASHEM commanded the earth to make a PRI ETZ and FRUIT-TREE and instead the earth gave forth an ETZ OSEH PRI- A tree that gives forth fruit.
What is the difference between the two? They represent two ways of living and experiencing this life.
With the tree that produces a fruit, the fruit is a goal and the tree is merely a means. A person lives and strives daily to eventually get to a goal that has been placed far ahead. A person labors his whole life to finally retire with a dream in mind that then life begins but it is often not the case.
They look back and wonder, “Was that lifetime of struggle all worth it for this?” Peggy Lee sang – crooned so many years ago, “Is that all there is?! If that’s all there is then let’s break out the booze.” Even when the goal is worthy and worth it the means is tasteless and tough like the bark of a dark tree.
The TREE-FRUIT that HASHEM wanted has the rare quality where the fruit and the tree have the same taste. The means is as delicious and exciting as the final product.
A person who is learning through the Talmud is not only feeling the joy of learning when a Tractate is finished or the entire project is concluded. No! He is reveling and delighting even in the great struggle involved in decoding words of Torah. The process is as delicious as the product.
Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter from Kelm, had a beautiful and relevant insight into the verse, “Yismach Lev M’Vakshe’ HASHEM” -Happy is the heart of those who seek HASHEM” He said that usually when a person is looking for something, he is not happy until he finds it.
You name the search! Looking for a house, a job, a couch, or any other object of desire, the frustration of the search is not relieved until what one is seeking is finally found.
However, when someone is looking for HASHEM, then the experience is very different. Even the seeking itself gladdens the seeker’s heart because with every effort one is always one step closer and one step better.