This week’s Torah portion begins with G-d’s call to Abraham, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). The quest – and its modern incarnation, the road trip – is one of the oldest and most beloved storylines in world literature.
The hero jumps onto his trusty steed (or into his rusty car) and rides off into the sunset. While he focuses on his destination, his journey becomes the story – the people he meets, the adventures he encounters, the lessons he learns. But what is it about the quest story that beckons us?
Rashi comments on the above quoted verse, “Go forth – for your benefit and for your good.” A comment from the Midrash sheds light: “What did Abraham resemble? A vial of perfume; sealed and in a corner. But when opened, and carried from place to place, its fragrance wafted about” (Genesis Rabbah 39:2).
The quest is the idea that one travels away to find one’s true self; that at home, surrounded by the familiar, you aren’t aware of your own fragrance, of all the untapped potential that lies within, waiting to be released by the friction of the road, the unstopping of the self, the exuding of one’s true essence.
“The longest journey is the journey inwards” – Dag Hammarskjold.
(Hat tip to Masha Shollar for a great line.)