One of life’s most important lessons can be learned right before takeoff on every flight. The flight attendant shows you your oxygen mask and then tells you that no matter what happens, you need to make sure that your oxygen is flowing before you help others.
Happiness and success follows the same rule. When we start feeling that our entire life is about everyone else, we begin to feel lack of personal identity and ultimately burnout. And even though we can be doing great things, saving the world, if we aren’t in touch with our own needs, we can be completely missing out on accomplishing our mission.
Parshat Lech Lecha begins with God commanding our forefather Abraham to leave his land and his father's home. Abraham had already built a name for himself in his home town of Ur Kasdim. He had become a well-known public figure, a spiritual guru for thousands, captivating audiences with novel and controversial ideas about God, morality and personal potential. But now, God commands to leave it all behind.
For what purpose? Lech “Lecha”. "Go for Yourself". For your own good. To accomplish your own personal mission. To build your family. For Abraham, there could be no greater test. His whole life was devoted to others, to kindness and selflessness. But now, his paradigm would have to change.
Many of us are faced with a similar challenge daily. We have people in our life who need us, who have expectations of us, often to a point that it holds us back from moving our life in a direction we know is necessary. We are then charged with the daunting task of having to balance our own needs with the needs of others. But there is a time when we need to hear the voice inside of us saying Lech Lecha.
We all owe it to ourselves to make sure that we are leading healthy lives, eating right and getting enough sleep. We owe it to ourselves to have time alone and to set time for our dearest loved ones without being hounded by all of the important emails and phone calls from our job and other people who “need us” so much.
And we owe it to ourselves to make sure that we are growing spiritually and not being held back by others. Abraham couldn’t become Abraham while still in the same city as his father’s house. He had to leave. One of the greatest barriers to spiritual growth is when we feel that we somehow “owe it” to others to be a certain way or to engage in certain activities.
Parshat Lech Lecha challenges us to know when to say just that:
“GO…. FOR YOURSELF!!!!”