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Shattering hubris in our ‘old-new’ land

Abraham was on the move to find his truth, which led him to doubt the broken idols of home and mind; and to renew his path of mystery, beauty, and wonder. We can do no less
Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)
Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)

These words by T.S .Elliot in “Little Gidding” echo the journey of Abraham:

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from….

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Abraham’s journey follows his father’s
Both journey to Canaan — the land of endless possibilities
Abraham’s journey is an end and a beginning
He must end all that is familiar
He must begin all that is new
We cannot see the world afresh when we are stuck in old modalities
When we lose our curiosity
When we fight the mystery

And as we get older we become more fixed
More stagnant
More stale

And so we all are all called upon to “start again”
to leave our land
our birthplace
our home
our fixed paradigms
our set ways
The humdrum of our stable and seemingly “perfect lives”
We are all called to open ourselves up to new possibilities
new ways of seeing the given

BUT the journey to new possibilities is paved with the fragments of brokenness
Chaos envelopes the superficial order we built with great meticulousness
The rupture can be partial or total
It can shake the foundations of our faith
in ourselves
in others
in God

And yet to remain in the safety of the constant and consistent
is to die a death from putrid perfection
Because when everything is seemingly perfect or ideal
When life offers us comforts and the comfortable….
we no longer move

In perfection there is fear
Fear that movement will crack the “ideal world” we have worked so hard to maintain
(remember that perfect house of your great-aunt where you were afraid to move for fear of smashing one of her perfect antiques)
Fear that the monopoly I hold on Truth may in the end only be meaning I have created
Fear of being wrong
To risk movement is to risk brokenness
When we move
there are cracks
there is brokenness

But there is also — most profoundly…
Growth

Growth threatens stagnation, stability and status quo
I have to move, I have to break my perfect world if I am to find anything worth living for
And then when I have journeyed, breaking the frozen idols of home and mind

Only then does my returning engender mystery
and beauty
and wonder
of my inherited tradition

Only then does my curiosity cultivate growth and transformation rather than decay

Only when I start anew can I return to the old
and see it for the first time
invested with its unique majesty and awe

Only then does it become my own

Only then can I make the journey to the promised land

Forever promised
forever the land of eternal possibilities
The land of Yisrael — the land of “struggle” — dynamic, challenging, never comfortable, never safe

A land whose beginning is its end and every end a new beginning

A land whose modern residents arrived where it all started
And knew the place for the first time

About the Author
Tanya White is an educator who teaches Tanach and Jewish Philosophy in Israel and abroad. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Jewish Thought. She writes a weekly blog on the Parsha combining Jewish thought and current affairs at www.contemplatingtorah.wordpress.com
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