Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
Abraham’s Trials and Tribulation
1 Choosing Colors
Can we find a common thread in Abraham’s stories?
Can we depict them in one color?
Genesis chapter one is all about IDOLATRY. It presents G-d, whom we should worship, and the idols whom we should worship not. It revolves around the verse that says in plural: Let Us Make an Adam in Our Form and Our Image. We can paint the entire chapter, let’s say in GOLD, as one big story.
Similarly, the entire story of the Garden of Eden revolves around LOVE, ADULTERY and MARRIAGE. It shows how Adam is formed by the two Attributes YHVH ELKM as they are glued to each other ike in no other chapter in the Torah. They form Adam like two cherubs holding Wing against Wing in Heavenly Love, their faces of a boy and a girl looking at each other in Love, as Moses depicted them on the Holy Ark. The very name Eden comes from Edna, delicate sexual pleasure.
Moreover, in their LOVE, the Attributes from their child Adam, showing to him Parental Love.
And as the woman was also formed, the concept of MARRIAGE and ADULTERY is introduced by one verse: Therefore, a Man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife so that they become one flesh.
And when the woman sins with the Serpent, they cover their nakedness in shame. Obviously, the entire story revolves around Noah’s Second Commandment: ADULTERY. We can paint it with PINK.
Then as we move from Eden to Earth, the Torah presents a series of stories that start with Cain killing Abel, then the stories about the split of humanity into two factions one worshipping MERCY the other worshipping ELOKIM, engaged in terrible BLOODSHED, Noah’s Third Commandment.
The stories end up with the Rainbow Covenant, which presents the BLOODSHED Laws in details. We can therefore paint the entire section with one color – RED,
Can we do the same with the stories of Abraham? Let’s see.
So here is the list of Abraham’s stories, as shown in the text and also as highlighted by the Rabbis in the Midrash
2: Abraham’s stories
First story: Abraham in Ur
Abraham was born to Terach, an artist who made idols of woods and sold them in his store. Abraham used to help his father selling those idols. One day he asked his father: “What right do we have to sell these gods?
Hs father said: “Since we made them, we have the right of selling them. By the right of the artist to own his art and sell it.”
So, Abraham sked: “Do we also have the right to destroy them?”
His father raised his brows, but answered: “Yes, we do.”
One day, when Abraham was left alone in the shop, he took a big stick
and destroyed all the idols in the store apart from the biggest one.
Then he placed the stick into the hands of that big idol.
And when his father returned and saw the devastation, he asked what happened, so Abraham said: “In your absence, the big fellow out there took the stick and broke all the other idols to pieces!”
Thus, in his youth, Abraham learned the right of an artist to own his art products. And when he grew up and recognized the CREATOR as an architect who built this beautiful world, he also said: This Architect also owns the world, by the virtue of making it. As Abraham would later say to the King of Sodom: “I have left my hand and swore in the name of YHVH, the Supreme El, Who Owns (Purchases) the Heavens and the Earth. (14:
Second story: The Canaanites
As Abraham travels in the land, it is said: “And the Canaanites were in the Land,” (12: 6). Rashi explains: The Canaanites were conquering the Land from the Emorits. Initially, by Noah’s Covenant, the Land was given to the descendants of Shem, but the Canaanites, who came from Ham, stole it from the Emorites.
Third story: Sarah abducted by Pharaoh
Next, the Torah tells us about Sarah, that she was abducted by Pharaoh for her beauty. G-d did not allow him to touch her.
Fourth story: Lot departing from Abraham
Next, the Torah tells us that a clash erupted between the shepherds of Abraham and Lot. The Midrash says that Abraham was enraged by Lot’s shepherds who stole water wells from the locals. So angry was Abraham that he said to Lot: “let you depart from me, if you go left, I shall go right, and if you go right, I shall go left.” (12:9)
Fifth story: The People of Sodom
Next, the Torah mentions the people of Sodom who were “sinners and exceedingly evil to YHVH.” (13: 13) We’ll talk about them in a different class, but the Torah describes what Abraham said to the King of Sodom who offered Abraham to share the loot. Abraham said: “I lifted my hands and swore…that I would not share with you from a thread to shoelace.” (14: 24) The King of Sodom was known as a master thieve, who did the opposite of what Abraham believed. The Sodomite slogan was: “Mine is mine, yours is yours,” implying ‘no sharing, no charity.”
Sixth Story: Abraham’s Eshel Tree
In the opposite of what Sodom did, Abraham planted an Eshel Tree, (21: 33) which is the acronym of Eating, Drinking and Sleeping. He built taverns on crossroads to provide for the poor free. In the morning when they wished to thank him, he said: Bless the Owner of the World, whose food you’ve eaten.”
Seventh story: The Four Kings of the North Subduing the Five of the South.
Next in line comes the story of the Five Kings of the North who came to subdue the Five Kings of the South, and install heavy taxes. In other words: to build an Empire based on Organized THEFT. Abraham waged a war against them and released all the captives.
So, What color?
As we see, almost all the stories about Abraham revolve around RIGHTEOUS OWNERSHIP and THEFT, the Forth Commandment of Noah. We can paint them with one color: GREEN.
Abraham also introduced a new Name for HaSheM: AaDoNai, My Master or better: My Owner. He also received a new Commandment, the Eighth, namely Circumcision which is “the emblem of our master in our flesh,” (Seforno).
New level of dedication
In the last class we’ve seen how G-d removed Abraham from the rest of the Children of Noah by telling him to exit his home and country and go to the Land. That call, we’ve said, was geared at everyone, but only Abraham heard it , for he had already gave his life for HaSheM. He had already shown much Love of HasSheM. He had climbed up from KNOWLEDGE OF ONENESS to KOVING GOD by his life. Therefore he was the only one who heard the voice telling him to go. was told to go. And what would he do while going? Learning the Commandments (and the Torah) avidly, with dedication and commitment, as the Shema says. Now he climbed up in his dedication by the Circumcision, which is the emblem of our master in our flesh. To declare his commitment, he called HaSheM by the new title AaDiNai, My Master, or better: My Owner.
Shades of Mercy
Abraham taught the people in his “hotels” where he provided free, to thank – not him, but the real OWNER oof the world, YHVH, “the Supreme El Who Purchases the Heavens and the Earth.” He knew that YHVH, the Attribute of MERCY, showers goodness with no limit. In Her Domain, the Eternal Sabbath, YHVH showers only endless compassion. Eve, holding her baby Cain in her bosom after a tough labor, felt that kind of endless unconditional compassion towards her child, therefore she saw YHVH standing alone without ELKM by Her side, as she said “I’ve bought a man with YHVH.”
Abraham too showered compassion to the people in unconditional way. He cared for everyone. By this he emulated YHVH. Yet he asked the people to give thank to YHVH. By this they would receive Her compassion by merit.
When YHVH entered our world to join ELKM in the Heavenly Court, YHVH limited Her compassion to be done by merit, as if to accommodate to ELKM. it is better and more lasting to receive Compassion by merit rather than as charity. It is also more dignified.
In fact, that is the secret of Judaism – to receive YHVH’s Compassion by merit, by keeping the commandments of the Torah, rather than by mere charity.