Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger

Staying Focused on Living the Dream

The world of trailers and promotional posters should give us reason to wonder if we have properly understood a Rashi that we have learned in our earliest years. It was probably one of our very first Rashis, presented to explain Hashem's intent in His guarded and hesitant itinerary issued to Avrohom. Instead of announcing with pomp and pride that the destination is Israel, Hashem, with obvious and intentional vagueness, points to "to the land that I will show you". That, we are taught by Rashi, is supposed to instill love and desire for Avrohom's new home[1].

To be sure, suspense, mystery, and cliffhangers may still pique interest and sell tickets, but do they and did they ever create "love" and warm and fuzzy feelings? In similar fashion there was a time when cleverly titled lectures, sprinkled with elusive alliteration, did indeed attract and maybe excite people; but did they ever endear or foster warmth?

Nevertheless, the sketchy description may have allowed Avrohom the space to imagine. What would "le'ha'anoscho uletoovcho" actually look like? Perhaps he would envisage the possibilities of spiritual attachment that must be part of the land that Hashem calls His own. Possibly, he would envision the depth of saintliness, the observances, and the relationships he would develop living in a land to which Hashem has led him. Those dreams would certainly endear the land of Israel in a fashion that would be hard to replicate.

Conceivably those dreams were dampened and disappointed by the famine so severe that he had to leave; or by the evil designs of Sodom that may have impacted his family; or through the encroachment of Canaan and Kedorla'omer; or by the painful years of infertility. Yet I can well imagine that revisiting those very visions would continue to inspire Avrohom to the seek what he was destined to accomplish. Recalling much later those innermost imaginings as he had taken each step at Hashem's bidding may have moved him to rededicate himself from time to time.

Though our minds can hardly fathom the thoughts of Avrohom Avinu, the Rashi may give us great instruction. All of us begin various stages of life and its adventures and enterprises with vivid and optimistic dreams. Whether it is marriage, child rearing, a mesechta or a semester, or leadership in a school or a charity, that initial creative optimism all too often weakens in the wake of the realities and pressures of life on the ground. Yet it is those visions that we need to revisit in order to keep us on task and assure that we continue to maximize personal experiences and communal institutions.

[1] An alternative insight offered by Rashi explains that Avrohom, ignorant of his destination, would earn reward for every step, as every step fulfilled Hashem's command as opposed to any substantial self-interest.

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