by Zachary Rehany, Grade 10 student
There is an odd story regarding a Sensei in Japan called Sensei Yan. Yan was a very exceptional person, as he knew how to reach high levels of self-mastery and self-control. Every day, before the sensei would teach his pupils, he would meditate for 10 minutes by sitting down, without letting his hands or legs touch the ground. After the 10 minutes, Yan would ask his pupils to try to knock him off balance.
Much to their surprise, the students were unsuccessful in pushing Yan off his stance, even after numerous attempts. Incredulous, they finally asked the sensei how he was able to maintain his balance. Yan explained that the 10 minutes of self-reflection enabled him to get in touch with his inner self to the point that he was able to defy the laws of nature.
In this week’s Parasha, Hashem commands Avram: “Lech Lecha Me’artzecha.” Beyond the translation of “Lech Lecha” in which Hashem directs Avram to “Go forth from your land,” the deeper meaning of Lech Lecha is “go for yourself; recommit yourself to your true values and identity.”
If you are rooted in your identity and your values by attending a school like Hebrew Academy, for example, this creates a foundation and a positive environment for your beliefs and values. It increases your chances of resisting any opposing tendencies, and makes it easier to avoid the herd mentality.
The first thing Avram needed to do was to strengthen his identity. For Avram, this meant having complete faith in Hashem. Avram’s identity was rooted in the recognition that he lived in a world where Hashem ran everything. This is how he was ultimately able to go against the natures, norms and the overwhelming mentality of idol worship of his time. This was why Avram, who became Avraham, was called Ha’ivri; the one who stands on the other side.
Let us all hope that we can maintain Avraham’s perseverance and strength in the face of challenging situations. For as it is said, “people who are rooted in the here and now, who are not defeated by their limitations, who don’t compare themselves to others, who confidently advance along their chosen path — such people are happy, such people are truly great.”