Living in Los Angeles, land of too many cars, I spent many hours sitting in traffic. Whether I was going many miles or only a few, I would often get stuck in ridiculous traffic jams for seemingly no reason. Even if I knew where I was heading and had been there a hundred times, every time I got in the car, I would open up Waze and set my destination. (If you don’t know, Waze is a social navigation app that depends on real time traffic reports from users indicating jams, construction, stopped cars, even weather.) Waze was a life saver. Or at least a time saver. Many days I would skip the regular route and find myself on back streets and side alleys following the soothing navigation commands of my Australian boyfriend (Siri). Only a few times he’d send me to a major six lane street and suggest I turn left with no signal light to help. Most times, Waze got me to my destination with time to spare - or at least not late!
In this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, Abram (soon to become Abraham) is commanded by God to set out on a journey. A journey with no destination. (At least the destination was not known to Abram.) God says, “lech lecha … el ha’aretz asher ar’eka.” (Go out … to a land that I will show you.) God promises to be with Abram along the way and to deliver Abram and all his household in good health at the end of the journey. Abram had to trust God, trust that the journey would be successful, and that he and everyone with him would arrive safe and in one piece. And although the journey was long and winding and there were some unexpected and interesting challenges along the way (check out the Egypt episode Genesis 12:11-20 and the battle scene in 14:1-24 to name just two), Abram does end up in a good place with wealth and a covenant with God for future success and numerous offspring.
Travel (and change) is always a sort of step into the unknown with some things entirely out of our control. Will the flights go smoothly or be delayed? Will the roads be open or congested with traffic? Will this big life decision be for the good or will I regret it immediately? There were many days in LA when I would turn on Waze in spite of already knowing seven different ways to get from my house to my office. Many days I would follow the voice navigation and wonder where I was heading. The streets going through the hills in Los Angeles are often narrow, winding, and confusing. Many times I had to just give in to Waze and hope I would make it! And I always did. (I’m not saying Waze is the same as God, but it was developed by Israelis, so…)
In life, we don’t always know what our journeys will be even as we set off on them. Whether we’re talking small scale (like driving from home to the office) or larger scale (like taking a job three thousand miles away from everything familiar) the journey really is more than just the destination. It is cliche but true. We may have a plan for our day, our drive, our lives. But sometimes the best way, the best plan might be to trust a higher power. Sometimes, like in our story of Abram and Lech Lecha, that higher power is God, and sometimes - as when driving through Los Angeles - it may just be a simple social navigation app called Waze!
Rabbi Rochelle Tulik