Monday, October 26, 2009

Lech Lecha / You want me to go where?

The Lord said to Avram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse whoever curses you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
Torah pictures Avram as leaving everything behind at God’s behest. He does so without question, hesitation, or protest. Avram is 75 years old when we first meet him and we might wonder what it takes for a 75-year-old to make such a drastic change in his life.

Midrash Tanhuma wonders why God does not initially tell Avram his destination, and answers the question by saying that the command to leave his homeland is a test, and the mystery of his destiny intensifies the test. It is a test within a test.

At this juncture in history, we too are being tested. It is a test of our own making, however, and there is a test within the test. We don’t know the ultimate destination in the sense that we don’t know what the landscape will look like.

Our fossil-fuel-dependent economy and lifestyle must change soon. We are at the same time: (1) supporting with our petro-dollars the very political regimes that foment the terrorism we are fighting, and (2) pouring hydrocarbons into the atmosphere that are degrading the very earth we depend upon to sustain our lives. Scientists are warning us we cannot continue. Yet we don’t yet feel the need for change acutely, just as Avram did not feel the need to leave Haran until God told him to go. And just as Avram faced a test within a test, we don’t know our final “destination.” Certainly solar and wind power – completely free and completely renewable – will be part of the “destination,” but so too will there be new innovative technologies that will free us from dependence on fossil fuels.

Here is one hint concerning the future landscape: Prof. Yair Ein-Eli of Israel’s Technion Institute (in collaboration with Prof. Digby Macdonald of Penn State University and Prof. Rika Hagiwara of Kyoto University) has invented a battery made of silicon (essentially sand), has a long shelf life, can revert to sand at the end of its useful life, and although it is not rechargeable, it can supply power for several thousands of hours. Imagination the battery for an electric car made from sand and recycled to sand. Read more here and here and obtain a pdf manuscript publication by clicking here (click on “2009” – it’s the fourth entry).

Avram rises to the challenge and passes the test. He initiates enormous change and we are still feeling the wonderful reverberations in our lives of his response. The challenge before us is enormous. Will we respond positively?

© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

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