Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The obedience of Abraham

I wanted to copy here an excerpt from an email I received from a Jewish group in Jerusalem called the Temple Mount Institute. I've visited their center in the Old City's Jewish Quarter. Some of what is said comes from Jewish tradition and not the Bible, but despite that, they make some good points. The main one -- Abraham believed God and was obedient despite the pressure of the world system.

This past week's Torah reading, parashat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), relates to us the story of Abraham.Avraham avinu - our patriarch Abraham - was the world's first Jew, the world's first monotheist, and the world's first activist on behalf of the one true G-d, Creator of the heavens and the earth. We are taught by our sages that we should seek to emulate Avraham. But is this truly sound advice?

Should Avraham have destroyed his father's idols, thus proving the falseness of the prevailing cult of idol worship, or should he have adhered to the "politically correct" doctrine of his day?

Should Avraham have openly defied the tyrant Nimrod, who, enraged by his icon smashing antics, had him thrown into the fiery furnace, or should Avraham have accepted "majority rule" and publicly denounced his own actions?

Should Avraham have left the financial comfort of his own society, the political security of the land of his birth, and the cozy social status of his father's house, only to venture out to an unknown destination?

Should Avraham have pushed the limits of his own intellect in trying to discover the one power which guides all creation, or should he have swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, the prevailing dogmas taught by the finest professors in the most prestigious universities?

Should Avraham and Sara have shared with all who were thirsty for truth their new found knowledge that there is one G-d Who rules all creation, or should they have bowed to the spirit of "pluralism," and remained silent out of respect for "multiculturalism"?

When Avraham arrived in the city of Shechem, should he have "built there an altar to HaShem" ( Genesis 12:7), or should he have kept a low profile, so as not to offend the locals?

When G-d said to Avraham, "to your seed will I give this land" (ibid), should he have politely declined, noting that the land was already occupied by other nations?

Should Avraham have entered the war of the "four kings against the five," (ibid 14:9), or should he kept to himself, the nations be damned?

Should Avraham have crossed "international borders" and defied the "international rules of law" in pursuit of freeing his captured nephew, Lot, or should he have pleaded to the nations to intervene on his behalf, perhaps attaining a sign of life?

Should Avraham have undertaken G-d's command to circumcise himself and all males "born in your house" (ibid 17:13), or should he have demurred from this "barbaric" practice, aimed at separating himself from the family of nations?

Should Avraham have laughed with delight when G-d promised him and Sara, already an elderly couple, a son, or should he have insisted that it was medically too risky, and therefore unacceptable?

Should Avraham have challenged G-d's declared intention to destroy the city of Sodom, the righteous alongside the evildoers, or should he have denied his own responsibility as a partner in the tikkun - rectification - of G-d's world? Or should Avraham have, in the name of "humanism" and "moral equivalency," denounced G-d and His intentions altogether?

Should Avraham have risen early in the morning, saddled his ass, and brought his son, his and Sara's only son, the son he so loved, Yitzchak, "'to the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will show you'" (ibid 22:2), or should he have said, "there is a limit to commitment; nothing is worth risking a life for; I'm heading back home to Ur."

If Avraham had played by the rules, and stayed at home, abandoned his dreams and accepted as a fact of life the futility of making a difference, his name would have never been recorded. If Avraham had remained Avram, the world today would be indescribably impoverished.