In this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, God commands Abraham and Sarah to leave their home and go to the place “which I shall show you (Genesis 12:1).” I will make you a blessing, God says. I’ll make your name great. Kind of vague but certainly promising. This command and promise means that this elderly couple are being asked to pack up and go with no clear destination, a rather amazing act of faith.
And so, an elderly man (75) and woman (65) give up their home at the command of God and the promise that God will make them a blessing.
Now surely such a promise from the Eternal is a tantalizing thing, even though one doesn’t have the sense that this was on Abraham and Sarah’s minds, at least there’s nothing in the text. A comfortable retirement at an oasis for this childless couple would surely have been a sufficiently comfy prospect for them.
But no. Off they go Canaan, with Abraham setting up some stations along the way, marking outposts for God.
This had to have been a mysterious and frightening adventure. A new place, new activities, a new mission, a world to build out of the sands, all beyond the age one qualifies for Social Security. But when God tells Abraham that he will be a blessing to the world and that God would protect him, it’s possibly a sign that Abraham and Sarah had both possessed within them not only the spirit of adventure, but the spirit of a spiritual adventure. The command from God is a command to build a new world, slowly, to be sure (in contrast to the rather drastic conditions of world building required in the aftermath of the Flood), but one in which God’s presence and promise is a given.
The life of an interim rabbi is not quite the quest into the unknown as our first patriarch and matriarch. But it’s at least of a piece. The interim rabbi, myself, for example, takes off to a place he’s never seen before (pre-covid, there would have been an in-person visit and as least a quick tour of COMO and environs). But there is a sense of mission to it. Out of a commitment to the Jewish tradition and the God it worships, the interim, myself, for example, makes his way into town, meets the community, and sets about serving the community. And who knows how things will work out?
Another drash on this story is the assertion that life’s adventures do not have to end because you’ve reached a certain age. Abraham started three world religions when he was 75 and Sarah had her first child when she was 91 (not something ordinarily to be recommended, or even possible).
Life takes us wherever it takes us, and if we’re blessed with some adventures later in life, and if they have a distinct religious component to them, well, gey gesunte heit, go for it!