|This week’s Torah Portion begins with God’s call to Abram (Avram—Later to become Abraham/Avraham). God said to Abram “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Now, up to this point in history, we could read the Biblical narrative and come to view God as a lighting-bolt throwing, flood sending, angry, controlling, world Dictator. He sent Adam and Chava (Eve) out of the Garden, He sent a worldwide flood, and He confused the languages at Babel; the entire backdrop to the story of Abram seems to imply that human-God relations are impossible. Until we arrive at this Parsha/Portion. From this portion we come to understand, God is not only involved in this realm, He is genuinely, specifically interested and deeply invested into each character of His world as well!|
When reading this portion, the first question that comes to mind is “Why was Abram chosen?” The answer is, “we don’t know.” In contrast, Genesis 6 tells us, “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” God chose Noah because he was a righteous individual. However, in the plain text of the Biblical account we find no specifics regarding God’s choice of Abram. Of course, there are many traditional reasons as to why Abram was chosen by God, but nothing is clearly stated in the Biblical account. Why is this the case? I believe the reason for this clearly non-clear calling is clear; Abram is the Blueprint for all of us on our journey of faith. Abram represents each of us as we voyage through life seeking God. There was no starting point for Abram and neither is there for us. There is no pre-condition necessary in order to follow the calling of God in one’s own life; the only needed attribute is the willingness to set out when God says, “Lech Lecha—Get out…” (The Hebrew word “Lech” can be translated as “Come” or “Go” depending upon its usage and context; this implies that when God says “go” we should “come” to Him) This calling from God to Abram is a spiritual calling, how do we know? Because the words “Lech Lecha” literally translate as “Go to yourself.”
|What does the phrase “Go to yourself” actually mean? I believe this idea is encapsulated by something I shared in last week’s observation by Rabbi Zusya. In shortened form, Rabbi Zusya once said, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not like Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not the Zusya you were created you to be?’” God’s calling to Abram have been His words to every person throughout the generations, “Go to yourself.” Look inside and find the true person God created you to be; once you do and pursue this, it will allow you to “go beyond yourself” into the unknown reality God has designed specifically for you! Abram’s calling began with the words “Lech Lecha—Go to yourself,” (Genesis 12:1) and Abram’s final test began with the words “Lech Lecha—Go to yourself,” (Genesis 22:2) From the beginning of Abram’s journey until his final test, his “job” was the same; he was to continue his pursuit of God by looking inside and finding the places which needed fixing and/or tweaking. When God called Abraham out of Haran, He said, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” I want you to notice the wording of this verse. Does the order God gives Abram make sense? “Leave your land, leave your family, and then leave your father’s house?” If Abram were to literally fulfill these words, wouldn’t it have made more sense he first leave his father’s house, next leave his family and only then leave his land? What is the idea behind the order of God’s words? I believe this verse is referring to a spiritual journey much more than it is referring to a physical journey, though they coincided with each other. It is much the same as the nation of Israel’s journey through the wilderness. As the quote goes, “It took 1 day to get the Israelites out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of the Israelites.” Abram’s journey was much like that of his descendants. Abram had to leave everything behind, not just the physical connections, but the ideas, memories and emotional attachments as well. Abram’s journey was a complete transformation from caterpillar to butterfly (metaphorically speaking); he went from being surrounded by a culture of idolatry to creating a culture surrounding God!|
Abram heeded the call of God, and because of his act, it has affected the entirety of human history. I was going to write “because of his simple act,” but I truly believe it was not an easy choice for Abram to “simply” follow God; his generation was probably much like today’s culture, which is hostile towards those living for God. But because of the faith of Abram amidst an antagonistic culture, his decision has affected every generation after him. Abram recognized, in the words of Psychologist Jordan Peterson that, “People who don’t have their own houses in order should be very careful before they go about reorganizing the world.” Because Abram’s journey brought such change to him personally, it allowed him to bring great change to the rest of the world as well. I believe the lesson of Abram is summed up well by Rabbi Israel Salanter zt”l who once said, “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. But I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my country. When I found I couldn’t change my country, I began to focus on my town. However, I discovered that I couldn’t change the town, and so as I grew older, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, but I’ve come to recognize that if long ago I had started with myself, then I could have made an impact on my family. And, my family and I could have made an impact on our town. And that, in turn, could have changed the country and we could all indeed have changed the world.” This is the story of Abraham Avinu—Abraham our Father. He recognized, as I heard a Rabbi put it, the truth that “We’re not supposed to be perfect, we are here to perfect…” Through our journey of life we bring perfection to the world around us, you cannot have one without the other. Through “self-rectification” which we are enabled to accomplish through the blood of Yeshua, perfection on a world scale level is achieved. Many people say they are concerned with global issues such as “Tikkun Olam—World Restoration,” but to reference back to Jordan Peterson again, he was once asked by an event Moderator, “Do you think that collective responsibility overrides individual responsibility in a huge issue …?” Peterson responded by saying, “No…I think generally people have things that are more within their personal purview that are more difficult to deal with and that they’re avoiding and that generally the way they avoid them is by adopting, uh, pseudo moralistic stances on large scale social-issues so that they look good to their friends and their neighbors…” Are we involving ourselves in, as King David says, “great matters…[And] things too profound for me?” (Psalm 131) Do we involve ourselves in great matters as an excuse to not have to deal with our own personal issues? In my own words, “I wanted to fix the world so I started with myself.” These are the characteristics of the children of Abraham.
|As I begin to come to a conclusion here, I find it interesting that we as a body of believers call ourselves the “Children of Abraham.” He’s not Abraham the Patriarch, nor is he “Abe the Old Guy,” instead; to us, he is Avraham Avinu—Abraham our Father. Why? Why not the “Children of Noah?” Wouldn’t this statement be more in line with the truth than the phrase “Children of Abraham?” I believe the reason we are called “Children of Abraham” is because our life should be one which reflects the character of Abraham rather than the character of Noah. Yes, thanks to Noah we all made it here physically, but without Abraham our spiritual forefather, where would the world be today? Abraham showed the world that a relationship with the Creator of the Universe is not only possible but that it is the true purpose for existence! The power of the life of Abraham still affects us today. As God said, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”|
Looking back at the life of Abram (Abraham) we rightly see him as a great Spiritual giant of the faith, but I think sometimes we forget his humanity. The entire land of Israel, children numerous as the stars, a Savior for the human race from his family tree; all these were promises he never saw in his lifetime. Yet, Yeshua, our Master said to those questioning Him, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Abraham lived life looking to the future rather than viewing life through his current lens of reality. Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith” chapter of the Bible says that, “These (Biblical Heroes—Abraham) were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” The work of the forefathers is “perfected” when we build upon what they began, namely, a world prepared to receive the King of the Universe. How many times did Abraham personally hear from God according to our Biblical records? It would have been 7 times total in the time span of approximately 62 years. This comes to an average of hearing from God about every 8.86 years. Do we trust God enough to know that He is leading us even if we never hear from Him? This is what a true “Child of Abraham” does. It is not blind faith, it is hoping in what we do not see, while perceiving His handiwork in the rearview, and knowing His invisible guiding-hand when it comes to direct us. This is what God means when He tells Moses, “…you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” In other words, “You see me once I have passed by because the trail I leave behind is obvious.” The work of God is evident today just as it was in the time of Abram. In fact, perhaps it is even more obvious, for while Abram waited on the promises of God, we are living in a time when God’s promises are being fulfilled. Here is the difference between being a “Child of Noah” and a “Child of Abraham.” In Genesis Rabbah 30:10 it says, “…A king had two sons, one grown up, the other a child. To the child, he said: Walk with me. But to the adult son he said: Walk before me. So it was to Abraham, God said: ‘…walk before Me’ (17:1). But of Noah, the Torah says that he ‘walked with God.’ (6:9)” God’s invitation to us today is the same as it was to Abraham so many years ago, “walk before Me.” What does it mean to walk before God? It means to know the heart of God, and then show the heart of God. May the promise and blessing of Abraham be experienced throughout the entire globe because we follow in the footsteps of Abraham our spiritual father!
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,