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08/16/2022 02:29:52 PM


Abraham's journey

As I mentioned last week, this year I will be reflecting in this column on the pivot points of Jewish history, in honor of CBSW turning 40. Last week we began exploring how Abraham came to create a new religion.
Since the Bible is very terse when it comes to explaining the rationale of Abraham, we have the ancient Rabbis of 1500 years ago offering various back-stories. They are centered around the idea that Abraham was special not only for being called by God but by answering the call in the right way. Abraham pondered the nature of the world. He wondered if people were capable of being good. God noticed and asked Abraham to be God’s partner in making a better world. And Abraham fortunately said yes!
The most famous story of the ancient Rabbis is when they suggest that Abraham’s father was a purveyor of idols. One day he left Abraham in charge of the shop and Abraham smashed them all to bits, save the largest one. When his father came back and asked what happened Abraham replied that the largest one smashed the other idols. His father says, “How can inanimate objects do something like that?” To which Abraham responded, “Then why should we pray to them?”
To be fair, pagans at that time did not think the statutes their own hands created were gods, but they did ascribe divine powers to the things they represented, such as weather and personal fate. Abraham’s innovation was the slow transformation to praying to a God who cares how we behave. The pagan image of uncaring gods, portrayed so well in Shakespeare’s King Lear—As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport—is not the God of Israel.
In the end, Abraham left all that he knew because the religions he knew were not sufficient in explaining to him his role in the world. He was the original iconoclast, lit. breaker of idols, and his journey – through us – continues still.

Sun, February 5 2023 14 Sh'vat 5783