The First Jewish Traveler
In this week’s Parasha, Lech Lecha, God commanded Abraham as follows:
And God said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, your birthplace and your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and .make your name great; and you will be a blessing’.
Rashi comments on the verse that long-term travel negatively affects three things:
God was telling Abraham to go on a journey with a “One Way Ticket To The Blues”. Abraham, as it seems, was a bit concerned about these issues (after all he and Sarah didn’t yet have kids). Therefor God promised him that if Abraham went as told he would get plenty of wealth, a good name and of course have children too.
I was wondering what would have happened if Abraham had traveled in the 21st century. Would he still have reason to be concerned about money, reputation and fertility or maybe not?
Lets start with reputation. When Abraham left Haran he was a serious person to be reckoned with. Everybody knew about his escapades in the furnace and how he became a monotheist. He was a Somebody. But the day he left, who else but the people back home knew him? Of course there were traveling merchants who might tell stories about Abraham, but I doubt it was enough to keep up a long-term and serious reputation.
Today it would be completely different. Abraham’s run in with Nimrod at the furnace would have been publicized in the front page of the online New York Times. He would be famous on Youtube and blogged about in every religious forum. He’s have a LinkedIn profile. Maybe Abraham himself would post daily in his Lech Lecha Travel Blog. Today reputation is simple to keep up, as long as you know how to manage it online.
In ancient times people were very attached to the agricultural world. There were of course some traveling merchants, but most were born, lived and died in one city or country (barring expulsions and exiles). Once a person went on a long journey there weren’t too many options to earn money and saving finished up quickly. Therefor it was assumed that Abraham would have difficulty supporting his family on the one way journey.
Today things are very different. One can earn money on every spot on the globe, whether you are in a hotel room or sitting on a beach. If you are a writer like Rolf Potts or Pico Iyar who make a full-time living from travel writing, then travel and money are interchangeable.
Even if you don’t write for a living, there are thousands of people who earn an online living as information workers or virtual entrepreneurs.
To be continued…