Leaving Your Dorm Room:
By Richard S. Moline
Packing up your room or dorm room for the summer is a good way to review the year. Aside from making sure that you’ve got most of your own possessions and not those of your roommate(s), or finding that DVD you assumed was lost (amazing how much space there is under that bed!) or that great paper your wrote first semester, it’s a good opportunity to use those physical objects to trigger thoughts and memories. And for those of you who have just graduated (Mazal Tov!!), I’m certain that this exercise has evoked a lot of memory, nostalgia, and possibly, a little fear.
Our ancestor, Abraham - - or at the time, Avram - - was the first graduate in our history. It was Avram who completed a chapter of his life when he was commanded by God to pack his possessions and to leave his home.
“The Lord said to Avram: Go forth out of your country and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great - - v’heyai b'rakhah - - and you shall be a blessing.”
A number of commentators have remarked on the unusual order of this command. The verse seemingly should read: Leave your parents’ house, your birthplace and then your country, for in order to leave your country, you would first need to leave your city, and in order to leave your city, you would first need to leave your parents’ home. The text, however, is deliberate in its order.
The great sage and teacher, Nechama Leibowitz, of blessed memory, points out that we are referring not to a physical journey, but to a spiritual journey. It would be a lot easier to leave your city than to leave your country. And it would be a lot easier to leave your country than to leave your family.
It may have been God’s intention here to make things a bit easier on Avram - - to tell him first that he must leave his country, then his city and finally, his home.
But God doesn’t stop there - - He doesn’t turn Avram out on his own. He says that Avram should go el ha-aretz asher areka - - to the land which I (God) will show you. God will continue to guide and nurture Avram on his journey, just as parents will continue to guide and nurture their children.
Leaving the dorm for a personal journey
As you pack those duffels and suitcases, one thing becomes crystal clear. It’s time for you to continue your own personal journey. Not all at once, but to continue your journey just as Avram did his. And we, your community, will be there to help you--el ha-aretz asher areka.
God still doesn’t stop there and concludes the instructions to Avram with some very simple words - - v’heyai b'rakhah - - “and you shall be a blessing.”
Rashi comments on these words:
“The blessings are placed in your hand. Previously, they were in My hand [says God]. I blessed Adam and Noah. Now, you must bless whomever you wish.”
Moving out, whether it’s for the summer or for good, can make us realize that we have a lot of blessings in this world - - and more important, that we have the ability (and perhaps the obligation), to provide blessings for others. It’s an opportunity to do a heshbon hanefesh, an evaluation of our innermost being.
How shall we measure our b’rakhot - - how shall we measure the blessings of our year? Take a look at any particular item you packed - - the gift from a friend, the clothes provided by your parents, even the paper over which you slaved. Think about the blessings associated with each item. How much do we take for granted every single day?
And now think about how to provide those blessings for others. Perhaps you have an elderly relative you haven’t spoken to in months. Pick up the phone and make their day (believe me, you will). Drop your favorite professors an e-mail, thanking them for all they’ve done. Now that I think about it, it will make your day, as well.
Have a wonderful summer - - v’heyai b'rakhah.
Richard S. Moline