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Abraham and our Jewish journey

A lot of talk about Judaism is based on the idea of tradition: Doing what our ancestors did. "Continuity," to use a popular buzzword.

But the forefathers these ideas invoke didn't practice continuity, and their relationship with God was based on being revolutionary, not conformist.

It started with Abraham, our first ancestor. According to the Torah, he distinguished himself by heeding God's call to leave his family and his birthplace. In fact, Abraham was called an Ivri, or a Hebrew -- one who passes over, or journeys.

What would it mean for us -- contemporary American Jews -- to follow in Abraham's footsteps and begin our own journey?

We're not talking about packing off to Israel. That's one kind of Jewish journey. What we are describing is looking afresh at our lives and reconsidering our values: An inner journey, with an unknown destination.

Jewish tradition asks each of us to question the values of the society around us, especially the values we unconsciously internalize. Through this questioning we leave our homeland -- "homeland" being symbolic for an unexamined life, the place where everything is familiar and nothing is challenged.

Food for Thought:

Why would God initiate a relationshiop with Abraham that begins with a command to journey? A command to leave everything that is familiar?
Discuss this in our private communities
Questioning thus becomes a powerful tool in the process of change -- the tool with which we begin.

Judaism contains many elements to encourage our journey, cycles to make time special and reflective: The weekly Sabbath, the annual holidays, markers for our lives. These are aids for what can be a life-long, continuous process.

This (if you choose to accept it) is your personal journey; we can help not by giving you directions or answers, but by packing your rucksack with questions.

(We think your journey might be easier if you travelled with companions, and unabashedly recommend that you consider joining one of our private virtual communities where such questions are discussed.)

See if the following questions can start you thinking:

  • What is your sense of your own "Jewishness"?

  • How has "Jewishness" figured into your life and the life of your family?

  • What do you think it means to be Jewish and what does it mean to you?

  • Has Judaism had a positive meaning, a negative meaning -- or not much meaning at all in your life?

  • What are some of your early Jewish experiences, positive or negative?

  • What would you like being Jewish to mean for you?

  • What can help us deepen our sense of Jewish identity?

  • Related:
    Jacob: Wrestling with God
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