There are many ways to do a journey. This week’s parshah, Lekh Lekha, focuses on the journey of Avram (later Avraham) and Sarai (later Sarah) from their home in Ur, Mesopotamia to Eretz Canaan. Comparisons are often made between the three biblical personages of the early narratives of Genesis: Ha’adam, Noach, and Avram. Among the many possible ways to compare these three, is to look at how each relates to God through the verb הלך “walk” or “travel”.
In Parshat Genesis, Ha’adam, the first human, “heard the voice of God ‘travelling’ around — מתהלך — in the garden.” The first human experienced God as the sound of a movement in the environment, in the garden of the world. In Parshat Noach we read את האלהים התהלך נח – “Noah walked himself with God.” The verb “walk” in this verse is reflexive and means something like “walking oneself.” Perhaps the idea is that Noah experienced God as a movement within himself, within his personality which is said to be “wholesome” and “just”. Through his actions Noah walked in parallel with God.
When it comes to Avram, God says: לך לך “Go to yourself.” All of God’s instructions to Avram are in the future tense: “Travel to the land that I will show you… I will make you a great nation… your name will become a blessing.” For Avram, the experience of God is that of a journey into the unknown future.
The middah we learn from this week’s parshah is that we should aim to “be flexible.” We practice spiritual flexibility when we discover that there are many ways to experience God. Sometimes, like Ha’adam, we experience God externally, through nature and the environment in which we live. Sometimes, like Noah, we experience God internally as a movement in ourselves. Sometimes like Avram, we experience God as a future orientated task and a journey into the unknown. May we all find our way to “walk” with, towards, and within an aspect of the Divine.