A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler
Lech Lecha 5783
By Rabbi Neil Sandler
Recently I was on the phone with someone who had to ask me several questions. One of the questions was, "Are you employed or retired?" When I responded with "retired," the individual laughed and said, "Livin the dream…" To that comment I also had a response, "It's not as easy or even desirable as you think. I'm still working on it." As I began to read Parshat Lech Lecha, the opening of which is familiar to many of us, I thought back to that phone conversation last week.
The opening of our parsha is particularly familiar. The great flood is now in the rear-view mirror. God is rebuilding a world that will be meaningfully different from the world Noah and others of his time had inhabited. The Holy One begins with Abraham and Sarah.
The Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).
The phrase "Lech Lecha," rendered here as "Go forth…," implies an understanding different from that of the translation–"Go to yourself…" Our interpretive tradition, going back to medieval times, has struggled with the meaning of the phrase. Rabbis have delivered countless sermons plumbing the depths of what it might mean to "go to yourself." I'd like to share a thought about the meaning of this verse as it pertains to the challenges and possibilities of retirement and how to deal with them. I hope my thoughts will resonate with some of you.
"Go to yourself"–Go inside yourself now, Neil, as you recreate your life. Decide what really matters to you, activities that you enjoy and bring you a sense of purpose. As you go inside yourself, be honest with yourself. While you don't have to, and probably shouldn't, cut yourself off from all your previous professional activities, appreciate what you did for many years… and don't try to hold onto all those activities that filled you with meaning. It's time for others to assume responsibility.
"Go to yourself"–Take some time for reflection. You are now free to do some things you might enjoy. What are those activities? In my case, I have gotten into tai chi and diamond art painting. Retirement is encouraging me to go within myself, consider possibilities and try some things that were entirely outside my previous experience and skillset.
What about you? As you transition into retirement or, perhaps, are already there, can you "go to yourself," can you honestly reflect on what is important to you and get involved in something you enjoy and find purposeful?
No matter where we are in life, all of us may still make a difference to family members, friends, and others as Parshat Lech Lecha informs us,
And you shall be a blessing (Genesis 12:2)