לך לך בדרך שהיא רק שלך, והיפרד מקרוביך שבתוכם חיית עד עכשיו ושאינם רוצים או אינם יכולים להשתתף איתך בדרכך החדשה
“…go on the way that belongs to you alone and leave behind your kinsfolk amongst whom you have lived till now and who do not wish or are not able to associate themselves with you in your new way.”
Last week, I attended Shacharit (morning) and Mincha (afternoon) services at JTS, first Tuesday, then again on Wednesday. This meant that, two days in a row, I prayed morning, afternoon, and night.
Before I came to New York I agonized over my competing desire to leave and to stay in Detroit. On three separate occasions, friends and teachers quoted to me the same Torah verse: לך לֹך (lech lecha). They told me that, much as God had commanded Abraham, I too had to leave the place that was most familiar to me in order to become more fully myself. And though I heard them, and ultimately followed their advice, I remained unconvinced that my departure was necessary.
In my first week in New York I felt terrified and overwhelmed. I wrote in my journal, “Am I courageous for leaving my work (so beautiful and in the process of blooming) behind to go and learn or am I a coward for going away to learn instead of taking the hard road of learning from my environment.” I was grappling with the sense I had that I was embarking on a journey, but when I reread my words, it seems clear that I didn’t actually understand what journey I was on. I was trying to understanding how leaving Detroit could possibly deepen my capacity to continue the transformative work I had begun, and hope to do in my future. I wasn’t thinking about the transformation I needed to begin for myself.
But on Wednesday, as I was sipping water from a drinking fountain trying to decide if I was going to attend Mincha for the second time, I realized that this is the journey I am on. The debate that was happening in my head, “Am I the sort of person who prays multiple times in one day? What are the reasons behind my desire to pray? And what are the reasons behind my resistance?” all centered around my discomfort with religiosity.
And yet, in our world of free markets and imprisoned selves, there is something so enticingly subversive about commitment. It’s not like we don’t act as if there is a master of the universe: I’d simply prefer to serve an idea of god and a vision of a healed world than to serve capitalism.