It is amazing how relevant Biblical events are today. The events surrounding the Garden of Eden and the Flood are totally relevant, beacons illuminating today’s dark world. And so, of course, are the events surrounding the life of Abraham. This Hero of the Ages refused to waste his life by adhering to mindless lifestyles and bestial behavior.
He thought about life! Yes, my friends, he thought! Thinking is an almost-lost, but essential art.
Every weekday, Jewish men wear tefillin. First, we place the hand tefillin near our heart; then we place the head tefillin near our brain, then we tie the strap around our hand. It begins with the heart. If we train our heart to desire Truth, then we will search for G-d. Then, we will activate our brain to translate that desire into reality. And all this will culminate in the work of the hands, which means putting our heart and brain to the service of G-d in the form of mitzvos which alter our nature and bring about a manifestation of His will in the world.
That is how we can become “a blessing,” which is what G-d promised our Father Abraham thousands of years ago. Abraham discovered that mankind in general was living a life of falsehood and emptiness. He realized that the world had to have been created and sustained by a Power of Perfect Intelligence and Orderliness. As King David tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of G-d!” But you have to think to see it!
It was but a step from there that the Master of the Universe manifested Himself to Abraham and confirmed his perception of Truth. “Ma’ase avos siman l’bonim … The actions of the fathers are a sign for the children”. The discovery of G-d’s existence and adherence to His Torah is possible for every human being and leads directly to the outpouring of blessing into the world! This is the earth-shaking accomplishment of our First Patriarch. The world has never been the same since he paved the path for man’s return to a direct relationship with the Master of the Universe!
It all begins with a clear perception of the emptiness of the current state of the world, the propensity of mankind to cleave to idols which “demand” nothing but to fulfill the desires of the worshipper. It takes clarity of vision and strength of will to understand that this is not reality.
We who dwell on this planet would do well to remember the events which occurred in the Garden of Eden, at the time of the Flood and the days of Abraham. If we fail to contemplate their implications, they will not help us. And that is (one reason) why we read every year the same order of Torah portions: Beraishis, Noach, Lech Lecha and so on through the entire Five Books of the Torah, whose eternal strength – if we take it to heart – will straighten out our lives and save us week after week, day after day, minute after minute.
If we follow the implications of the lifestyle of Abraham we will also become a blessing to the world. Those who curse us will be cursed.
Do you think it’s easy? If it were easy, then everyone would do it!
My father, of Blessed Memory, used to say, “Don’t have a sheep mentality.”
“V’yagaid l’Abraham ha Ivri …. then came [Og] and told Abraham the Ivri…” (Genesis 14:13). This is where Abraham is first referred to as “ha Ivri … the Hebrew.” This term refers to Abraham as the descendant of Ever, “one of the few solitary individuals … who recognized G-d as the creator even when others were serving idols” (Rambam Hilchos Avoda Zarah 1:1). It also refers to the fact that Abraham came from “ever hanahar, the other side of the river (Euphrates)…” (Rashi to 39:14). Most importantly for our purposes, it implies that Abraham “stood [morally] on one bank (“ever”) of the river and the entire world was on the other side” (Midrash Rabbah), which is understood to mean that Abraham alone served G-d while the entire rest of the world practiced idolatry!
Do we understand what it means to stand against the entire world? It is difficult to stand against the abuse of one person, but the entire world? Last week I wrote about the United Nations declaration that the Children of Israel have no connection with the Temple Mount. I recalled that we are called “Am Levadad Yishkon … a nation that will dwell alone” (Numbers 23:9).
We stand alone in the entire world. Our only sustenance is the Master of the Universe. From our inception as a Nation this has been our role, and no person exemplifies that solitary nobility more than Abraham. His title, “haIvri,” emphasizes that he alone in the entire world recognized the Creator! What a cosmic sanctification of G-d’s Name!
Thousands of years later, in today’s world, our very lives depend on our willingness to put that sanctification into practice. It often seems that we are living in the era described as follows:
In order to save ourselves – and indeed the world, which depends on our blessing! – it behooves us to follow the way of our Father Abraham, to stand on one side of the river, even if we must stand against the entire world. That means to ignore and abhor the ways of those whose lives are drowning in falsehood and amorality! That means to follow our Father Abraham to a life of unity with the Ruler of the Universe!
May we see that pure and perfect world soon in our days!