If we take a close look at this verse, a number of things don’t seem to sit right. First of all, the verse begins with a very strange phrase: “Go to yourself.” What does that mean and what can we learn from it? Furthermore, God tells Abraham to leave his land, his birthplace, and his father’s house. Why list all three? Couldn’t God get the message across with “Hey Abe, it’s time for you to leave your land”? After all, his birthplace and his father’s house are included within his land. Is God just trying to rub it in and make it more painful? And even if God wants to list all three of them individually for whatever reason, why in that order? Isn’t it backwards? Should the verse not read “father’s house, birthplace, land”? When I took God up on this verse and moved to Israel, I initially left Teaneck, New Jersey, then the New York/New Jersey region, and then the United States of America. The way this verse appears, it is as if God said to me, “Eliyahu, leave the USA, the New York area, and your house in Teaneck.” Why tell me to leave New York or Teaneck if I’m already out of the country?
The Kabbalists teach that this verse can instill within a person a deep sense of individuality. As mentioned, all that happens to us and all that we are born with has been custom designed to our unique soul in order that we make choices in life under those specific conditions. Some people are born into wealthy families; others are born into poor families. Some are born into a more religiously observant environment; others are born into a completely secular surrounding. Some people grow up in stable, healthy homes while others grow up in broken dysfunctional ones. Each one of us is given exactly what we need to be given in order to achieve what we need to achieve through making the choices we need to make under these specific circumstances. The idea of “go to yourself” mentioned in the Torah means to go towards one’s unique potential — the reality of who you can be.
How do we get there? How can we succeed in actualizing the potential that is hidden within us? God’s message to Abraham is that the prerequisite to getting to one’s inner potential and purpose is to first leave “from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house.” The meaning of this, teach the Kabbalists, goes much deeper than the physical land, birthplace, and house we grew up in. It means that in order to get started on our true spiritual path, we must first gain a sense of clarity and objectivity. The only way to do that is to do whatever is necessary to uproot from within ourselves any form of subjectivity and false beliefs about the world and ourselves we may have acquired up until now.
Nature versus Nurture
While modern psychology speaks of “Nature versus Nurture”, it turns out that the Torah talked about it long before the phrase was coined in the twentieth century. The Kabbalists understand the leaving “from your land” to be a leaving of one’s culture, and the leaving “from your father’s house” to be a departure from the modes of behavior that have been taught to you there. These, of course, constitute an overall distancing from one’s “Nurture.” This is especially relevant today due to the high level of social conditioning prevalent in the world’s societies. Advertisers are paid to know how to manipulate us into buying their product. The media, movies, and TV have more to do with forming our opinions than anything else. It is obvious, then, that if it is clarity and spirituality that we seek, we must first leave the illusions, conditionings, and falsehoods of the world in which we live.
The Kabbalists further explain that leaving “from your birthplace” refers to rising above one’s genetic predisposition, one’s “Nature.” Each one of us has been born with certain character traits and desires that are ingrained in our minds, bodies, and genetics. If one wants the path of the spiritual journey, one must first take control of his Nature, and not the other way around. We must break out of these limitations and boundaries that we have been born with.
The Head of the Year
When Abraham left these three forms of confinement to journey towards spiritual truth, he led the way for each Jew of all time to break out of the constraints of his or her conditioning and live out the reality of his or her soul to the greatest extent possible.This is what Rosh Hashona – literally meaning the head of the year – is all about. As we transition into the new year we can continue living in the matrix of the reactive autopilot in which most of us find ourselves, or we can opt out by freeing ourselves from ourselves to live a conscious life of real choice and empowerment. It all begins in the head. – and it all begins at the head of the year.
May we be blessed to be inscribed in the book of life!
Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a sought after cutting edge international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life. His recently released #1 Amazon’s Best Seller,Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism (Get it here!), has won wide acclaim as one of the clearest, most comprehensive, easily accessible, and practical depictions of Kabbalah and the “whys” of Judaism.