Was it masterful planning or Divine synchronicity that the Boulder JCC held its Shalom Boulder event — introducing new residents to the Boulder Jewish community — the week we read the Torah portion, Lech-Lecha? To me, it felt like a little bit of both.
In Lech-Lecha, Genesis 12:1, God said to Abram, “Go forth from your homeland to the land that I shall show you.”
My husband Monte and I moved to Boulder three months ago, and we have lived in three different places since we sold our family home in Evanston, Illinois three years ago. That’s a lot of threes, and it sure has been a lot of moving around. But after our nest emptied, and we both retired — Monte gave up his health care law career after 35 years, and I finished my work at a non-profit training program for at-risk youth — we decided to take some risks that would bring new energy and experiences into our lives and our marriage.
In his book “Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life,” Rabbi Alan Lew writes, “No sane person ever voluntarily leaves the places and things that make him feel comfortable and secure. We leave the comfortable, the secure, the habitual, only when forced to do so…. What is it that usually disrupts our habitual patterns and brings us face-to-face with our lives? Some crisis, some trauma, often of the life-threatening sort. …We don’t make this kind of break for fun.”
I don’t think we were crazy to give away most of our worldly belongings and open the door wide to new cities and new adventures. Thankfully, there was nothing life-threatening happening in our lives, but we were itching for new opportunities which would feel life-enhancing. So we took a leap even though we didn’t have a long term plan, and we still don’t three years later. We began with a move to an apartment in downtown Chicago, followed by a year on the Upper West Side in NYC, and then after a short stint back in our old Evanston neighborhood, we landed in Boulder.
Rabbi Lew was right. It’s not all fun, sometimes it can even be unsettling.
“What are we doing?” Monte and I say to one another on those days when we don’t feel particularly up for the challenge of making new friends, doing new things, or just wondering what the future holds. But most days, Boulder, with its beautiful mountains and friendly folks, feels like a really lucky place to be, and to evolve.
Growth and change are high on our spiritual wish-list for this “Growing Older” chapter in life. Leaving home, Lech Lecha, was just the beginning of the journey.
Rabbi Lew says that “Leave-taking — home-leaving — always precedes the Divine Encounter, because when we leave home, when we leave everything that is familiar to us, we leave convention, and most significantly we leave habit, for God is never encountered in either convention or habit.”
Part of this process of moving away from our conventions and habits was to begin to meditate and eventually become Jewish Mindful Meditation teachers through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. As Rabbi Lew suggests, “Spiritual activity such as meditation replicates leave-taking for us. Simply to begin to meditate is to leave the way we ordinarily live, and every conscious expulsion of breath is a leave taking of sorts as well.”
Lech Lecha represents both an internal process as well as a physical journey. As Rabbi Kerry Olitzky says, “Lech Lecha…. Get out of this place. It is the only way that you can grow spiritually. If you remain here, you will stagnate. You will never reach the heights you seek. Abraham….realized that the journey is in fact an important part of his spiritual growth….the joy is in the journey.”
At Shalom Boulder that night we connected with others and heard their journey stories.
First there was the young couple who just moved from Israel and both plan to go back to school. And then there was a pregnant mother of a two-year old named Bryson who came to Boulder with here husband a month ago from San Diego so they could be closer to family. They arrived just in time for the big snowstorm, and it was the first time Bryson had ever seen the white stuff. “We made up the “Dirty or Clean Game” because he wants to eat the snow,” she said.
Finally, we met the woman who moved here just a few weeks ago from Farmington, New Mexico. Being at the the starting gate of her journey paid off well for her that night. As the newest of newbies at Shalom Boulder, she took home the event’s grand prize…a gift basket filled with Boulder-made treats. There’s nothing like Celestial Seasonings’ teas, Justin’s chocolate covered peanut butter cups, and a big bag of Boulder Canyon Chips to help ease the transition, and sweeten the journey, to whatever lies ahead!