Parshat Lech Lecha: Roadblock
Genesis 15:11

וַיֵּ֥רֶד הָעַ֖יִט עַל־הַפְּגָרִ֑ים וַיַּשֵּׁ֥ב אֹתָ֖ם אַבְרָֽם׃ 

Birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away

At nearly 100 years old, Abraham is instructed to ritually sanctify the covenant between himself and God by sacrificing specific animals and laying out their flesh in a particular pattern. Abraham does so and prepares himself for a spiritual experience, except something goes wrong. Birds swoop down and start pecking at the carcasses. Instead of completing the ritual act, Abraham needed to stop and scare them off before returning to complete the ceremony. How could it be that during a ritual ceremony as important as this, one that ushered in the entire Jewish religion, an unexpected roadblock popped up? 

In Judaism we have a deep tool box of rituals to help us in our personal quest for connection. To name a few, we have prayer, lighting Shabbat candles, blessings before food, putting on a tallit – all which help us connect to God, to Torah, and to the generations and multitudes of Jewish people. Metaphorically speaking, there are also birds that unexpectedly swoop in and prevent us from completing these rituals. An email comes in when it’s time to light Shabbat candles. A busy work week makes watching Netflix more appealing than taking a moment to say the shema (talking from experience here). Kids bicker during Friday night kiddush. If we are trying to use our rituals to connect with God, shouldn’t it be easier?

We are reminded from Abraham’s experience that any meaningful long term relationship takes work, and ongoing commitment. Having a relationship with God means continually running into roadblocks, and choosing to overcome them. It means reaching into our ritual toolbox even when it’s not convenient.