© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Torah Class THEFT-7/Who could inherit Abraham?
And Abram traveled in the Land (Genesis 12: 6)
All Nations relate to Abraham
Soon as Abraham arrived at the Holy Land he travelled through it “as an owner who checks his parcel’s borders” (Midrash.)
The Owner of the Universe had given him this Land, and now he implemented his possession by walking through it.
There was one seemingly unsurpassable biological problem: he had been promised by the Merciful YHVH to have “Children, Wealth and Fame,“ yet he had no child. At age 75, his wife 65, their prospects of bearing a child were very slim.
But an ‘heir’ can be anyone worthy of it. Would he find a qualified man or a group of people who could inherit him? So while traveling the land he encountered peoples whom he examined carefully.
Back in Syria, Abraham could not change the inhabitants. Since he wasn’t the owner of the place, he had no right to intervene in their lives.
Not so in the Holy Land. Here he was the owner. After all, the OWNER of the Universe gave him that land, and no other land. Here he was the LAND-LORD . Here he was the Master of the House. This did not mean that he had the right to raise his swords against the tenants and chase them away. His children would have to wait four hundred years for the “Sin of the Emorites to ripe.” But as the |Landlord appointed by the Owner of the Universe he had the right to measure the tenants whether or not they kept the Seven Commandments of Noah.
Abraham and his seeds would never make that examination of any nation beyond the Holy Land. Neither David nor any powerful Jewish King had done that.
He carried the Schechina on his shoulders
But Abraham did not travel the Holy Land by himself. On the verse “And Abraham passed through the land…” (Genesis 12: 6) the Midrash points out that the Hebrew words for ‘passed through,’ Va-Yaavor, can actually be read as ‘passed in front,’ as if Abraham passed ahead of someone else. Who could that be? So the Midrash says: Abraham passed ‘ahead’ of the Shechinah of YHVH. The Schechinah “rode on his shoulders.” And so would Isaac and Jacob. Hence the saying that “The Patriarchs were like a chariot for the Shechinah.”
This notion is important, since it says that while traveling in the Land, the Scehchinah of YHVH was riding on Abraham’s shoulders and EXAMININNG the inhabitants in comparison to Abraham.
That is for the inhabitant’s detrimental. Had Abraham not been there, YHVH wouldn’t have scrutinized the peoples. The presence of Abraham in the Holy Land raised the standards by which peoples are measured.
Let’s note again that this applies only to the Holy Lannd where Abraham (and his seed Israel) is the OWNER. Outside the Holy Land the Schechinah would not be so particular in her relation to the inhabitants.
Seven categories of peoples
In his traveling through the Land Abraham would meet seven categories of peoples, judged by their level of faith. The Torah presents them in ascending ladder according to their level of faith, starting from the bottom up. Each group is measured in comparison to Abraham.
Even more striking is the fact that besides their level of faith and IDOLATRY, the seven groups are measures by THEFT. They all involve in some sort of THEFT. ,That is not surprise to us knowing that Abraham’s main struggle was not only against IDOLATRY but also against THEFT to its kind. For him the cardinal sin against the OWNER OF THE UNIVERSE is THEFT!
It is not incidental that while passing through the Land, Abraham engaged in CHARITY, which is the opposite of THEFT. The verse says that wherever he traveled he built altars “and called YHVH’s name.” He also “Planted a cedar tree and he called in the name of YHVH,” (Genesis 12: 7-8.) That cedar tree, Eshel in Hebrew, is also an acronym for “Food, Drink and Hospitality.” Thus Abraham built “kitchens, hotels and hospitals” for the poor. He was an avid follower of YHVH who exercised COMPASSIONE, MERCY and FORGIVENESS on everyone. He taught people to thank “YHVH Who Owns the Heavens and the Earth” (Genesis 14: 19) for their food and bed. From him we learn to bless G-d for the food and other things at least 100 times a day. The prophet calls him “Abraham, my lover” (Isaiah 21)
In fact the words “he called in the name of YHVH” reminds us the verse about Enosh who also called YHVH’s name. Enosh desecrated the Holy Name by calling Her LONE, forgetting about ELoKiM. Enosh SEPARATED THE GLUED ONES. He transgressed Oneness. The results were awful: the Flood. here Abraham sounds as if he too sinned like Enosh, following YHVH TOO MUCH. Indeed, as well later see, Satan took advantage of that and blamed Abraham for neglecting ELoKiM. This would bring about the trial of the binding of Isaac. That trial would prove that unlike Enosh, Abraham did follow the Merciful YHVh avidly while abiding by ELoKiM laws at the same time. He did not say that the Laws were abrogated, obsolete.
Who are the seven categories of groups that Abraham encountered in the Holy Land?
ABRAHAM MEET THE SEVEN CATEGORIES OF NATIONS
1: The Canaanites
The first peoples mentioned in Abraham’s travel are the Canaanites, as it says:
“And Abraham passed in the land…
And the Canaanite was then in the Land,” (Genesis 12: 6)
the Canaanites’ spiritual level was at the bottom. Yes, they excelled in poetry, craftsmanship, music and art in general. They were not primitive pagans. They did worship idols of wood and stones, and they bowed to tall mountains and magnificent trees. But was distinguished the, was their practice of Sacred Prostitution in their temples for the Ashtoreth, the goddess of fertile. Worst: they offered their firstborn sons to the idol Molech. They were at the bottom of faith.
For many years it was believed that the Canaanites only passed their children “in between two bonfires” in the honor of the Molech. This practice remained active till Jeremiah’s times. But recent archeological findings in Northern Africa unraveled the Molech’s statue wit pills of burnt children’s bones in front.
Engaged in Organized Theft
Interestingly, the verse says that “the Canaanites were then in the land,” (Genesis 12: 6.) Rashi explains: “the Canaanites were conquering the land from the Semitic Emorites.” The Canaanites, as descendants of Ham, had no business in settling the Holy Land which had been allocated by Noah to his son Shem. The Canaanitesengaged in the business of the day: ORGANIZED THEFT, stealing land by the sword.
In contrast to the Canaanites, the Semitic Abraham was a ‘rightful owner’ of the Land. Yet he did not conquer it by the sword. We’ll see him being careful in purchasing land with good money.
2: Abraham and ‘Pharaoh’
The second of the seven groups that Abraham encountered was the Egyptians as it says:
“And there was hunger in the land.
So Abraham went down to Egypt to dwell there…” (Genesis 12:10)
The scholars hold that Abraham did not go down to the deep Egypt but rather to a northern district rueld by a local governor whom the Torah refers to as Pharaoh (Big House.) We know from history that at about 1900 BC some powerful Semitic tribes from the North called ‘habiru’ invaded and conquered Egypt. Most likely Abraham encountered one of their leader.
You know the story. The Egyptians ABDUCTED the beautiful Sarah for Pharaoh. HaSheM then plagued Pharaoh so he had to free Sarah.
Many commentators take the story as a prelude to the story of Exodus.
But it is better to examine the story in the context of Abraham’s traveling.
The Egyptian’s faith was one step above the Canaanites. They did worship idols, but they did not sacrifice children to the Molech. They worshipped death, and witchcraft, and they were sexually promiscuous.
Interestingly, again, the Torah presents them in the context of ABDUCTION and THEFT. Sarah was taken by force as a concubine for Pharaoh. Later Israel would be subjected by force into slavery.
In the eyes of Abraham, the only OWNER is the OWNER of the UNIVERSE. Theft of people is a cardinal sin against the true ONWER.
3: Abraham’s nephew: Lot
Until now Abraham met pagans. From here on he would meet peoples who FOLOWOED THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS. They too were compared to Abraham, especially through the prism of THEFT. Who among them was qualified to be Abraham’s heir?
The first of these Noahides was no other then Lot, Abrahams nephew as it is said:
“And to Lot too, who walked with Abraham,
was sheep and cattle and the land could not carry them together……
And Abram said to Lot: let there be no strife, I say to you…
Separate yourself from me, I pray you,
If you take the left hand then I shall go to the right,
If you will take the right hand, I shall go to the left….
So Abraham settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the plain,
and his pitched his tent as far as SODOM….” (Genesis 13: 6-12)
Lot, the Noahide who regressed
Lot followed Abraham to the Holy Land. His father, Haran, had sacrificed his life for the Seven Commandments, like Abraham. Both Abraham and Haran were thrown to the oven alive, but only Abraham survived. By following Abraham, Lot could have become Abraham’s heir.
But then a ‘strife’ erupted between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. Why? Abraham’s men discovered that Lot’s men were STEALING water from the local philistines. For Abraham this was a cardinal sin. He and Lot could not live together side by side.
Abraham says to Lot: If you go to the right, I’d go to the left; if you go to the left I would go to the right. Abraham saw a total separation between them, forever.
Lot then settled in Sodom, the capital of stealing. Moreover, he became a Sodomite Judge. His daughters became Sodomite whores. On the surface it looks that Lot lost his chance to be Abraham’s heir.
But the Shechinah of YHVH who rode on Abraham’s shoulders was it differently.
Form Lot and his daughter would come Moab.
And from Moab would come Ruth.
And Ruth would join Abraham’s seed, be grafted on his tree,
and from her would come David.
Isn’t this the most fascinating story ever told?
The story of the tiny holy spark that was in Lot,
And through many generations has turned into the big holy flame of Ruth
From whom a huge flame of holiness burst in the form of David and Solomon!
4: Abraham and the Sodomites
”And the people of Sodom were
evil and sinners to YHVH, exceedingly” (Genesis 13: 13)
The fourth group that Abraham met in the Holy Land was the People of Sodom. The Torah describes them as “Exceedingly evil and sinners to YHVH.” Rashi explains: “exceedingly evil: they knew YHVH and yet rebelled against Her (Him.)”
We are no longer dealing with pagans. The Sodomites somehow KNEW YHVH, yet rebelled against Her. It means that they were ‘exceedingly cruel, uncompassionate, unmerciful and unforgiving’ ON PURPOSE, in rebellion against YHVH whom they knew.
How did the Sodomites arrive at their weird culture? The commentators present several options:
1. They retained the ancient teaching of Noah, yet rebelled against it
2. They discovered YHVH on their own and rebelled against it
3. They learned about YHVH from Noah’s son, Shem, and rebelled against it
The NAZIS too knew the Bible yet rebelled against it in public, claiming that the Jewish people had poisoned their “Arian nature” by their bible. The ’SS’ stands for Sodomite Society. We’ll learn more about Sodom in due course.
What characterized the Sodomites was their rebellion against MERCY while sticking to the Law. For instance: they knew the THEFT law that says that one is not punished for stealing less than a minimal value. So when they wanted to rob a rich person they came to his home in a group, and each thieve took less than the minimal amount allowed by the Law. When they were brought before the Sodomite Judge he praised them for keeping the law and being such good citizen. This way they did not transgress ELoKiM’s Law but they did enrage the MERCIFUL YHVH by their evil.
The NAZIS too did not disobey the Laws of the NAZI state. They were very careful to perform their evil with order, with memos, in ‘civilized’ way.
Later Abraham would meet the King of Sodom who would offer him a share in the loot. Abraham would tell him that he would not take a thing from him, from a thread to a shoelace. Abraham would not share a thing with the King of Thieves.
Again we see that the peoples that Abraham met in his journey in the Holy Land were judged not only by their IDOLATRY and FIATH but also by their level of THEFT.
5: Abraham’s Allies
We ascend in the level of faith. Would the new ones be qualified to be Abraham’s heir?
The new group is referred to as “Abraham allies” as it says:
“Then Abram pitched his tents and came
and dwelled in the Groves of Mamreh which are in Hebron
and there he built an Altar to YHVH…”
The three Emorites: Aner, Eshkol and Mamreh, are called “Abraham’s Allies” (Genesis 14:13) since they ‘leaned’ on Abraham spiritually and learned from him the Seven Commandments. They were his spiritual and military “allies.”
Potentially, they could become Abraham’s heirs. The Midrash says they did aspire to do so. Later when Isaac came to the age they wished he would marry one of their daughters. Unfortunately they became unqualified when they shared the LOOT with the King of Sodom (Genesis 14: 24). Nothing would set them apart from Abraham than their THEFT.
War between Empires
The Torah devotes now several chapters to describe Abraham’s society and their ORGENAIZED THEFT. While Abraham was traveling in the Holy Land a major war broke out. Four mighty “kings of the North” came down to wage a war against “five kings of the south,” including the King of Sodom. The names of these five kings of the south” indicate that they were evil to the Merciful YHVH.
Thus for twelve years the five kings of the south SERVED the northern four kings. On the thirteenth year they rebelled (Genesis 14:4.)
What right did the Northern EMPIRE have to subject the Southern ally? Only by force. This was the business of the day: get rich and accumulate wealth by ORGENIZED THEFT.
The text elaborates how powerful the four Northern kings were: on their way southwards they smote mighty nations: (1) Refayim (2) Zumim (3) Eimeem (4) Horim (5) Amalikits (6) Emoraites, their names suggest how fearful they were.
When the Northern ally attacked the rebellious five kings of the south, the outcome was predictable: a total defeat to the south. The southern armies scattered over the muddy fields around the Dead Sea and were trapped in the huge holes in the ground, still seen today. The victorious kings then captured peoples and property from Sodom, among them Abraham’s nephew Lot and his household.
Abraham the warrior
As the victorious Northern alliance walked happily back home, Abraham took action:
“And there came the fugitive and told Abram the Hebrew
and he was dwelling in the Oaks of Mamreh, the Emoriate,
the brother of Aner and the brother of Eshkol, and were Abram’s allies.
Abram heard that his brother was taken captive
so he armed his disciples who have been born in his house,
three hundreds and eighteen, and he pursued them till Dan.
He and his servants deployed against them at night and struck them
and he pursued them as far as Horan which is at the left of Damascus.
He brought back all the possessions. And he also brought back
his brother Lot and with all his possessions as well as the women and the people.”
With only a tiny force of 318 disciples Abraham overcame the victorious North and released their captivities. Now the moment of truth came. While Abraham refrained from taking any portion of the loot, his “allies” did not resist the temptation. Faith did not hold them back from taking their share in the loot. By this, as we’ve just said, they removed themselves off the list of Abraham’s potential heirs.
6: Abraham and Malki Tzedek
The victorious Abraham was first greeted by “Malki Tzedek the King of (Jeru) Salem” as it says:
“And Malki Tzedek, the King of Shalem (Salem) brought out bread and wine
And he was a priest to the El the Most High and he blessed him and said,
Blessed is Abram to the EL the Most High
Who Buys (Possesses) the Heaven and the Earth,
And blessed is El the Most High
who has delivered your enemies into your hands.
And he (Abraham) gave him a tenth of everything…” (Genesis 14: 18-20)
Who was Malki Tzedek?
He is “the King of (Jeru)Salem, a priest to El The Most High.”
To be considered a priest in Abraham’s eyes, Malki Zedek must have kept Noah’s Seven Commandments; otherwise Abraham would not give him a “tithe.”
And he was a priest of ‘El’ which may be a short version of ELoKiM. In Kabala, though, ‘El’ as a unique Attribute of the Infinite CREATOR, ‘Higher’ than other Attributes. This may explain the title “Supreme EL.”
But what is special about him that he blessed Abraham “to EL the Most High, Who Buys (Possesses) the Heaven and the Earth.
Malki Zedek uses Abraham’s concept of G-d, his vocabulary, to bless him. He was most likely Abraham’s disciple who greeted Abraham by his own teaching.
Could Malki Zedek become Abraham’s heir?
Unfortunately, he committed here three errors:
Malki Tzedek’s first error:
Some commentators (Abarbanel) say that by referring to G-d as ‘El Most High,’ Malki Tzedek implied there are other ‘inferior’ deities. He retained his former belief in idols. He believed in the true G-d of Abraham AND His PARTNERS.
Hence Malki Zedek represents those who believe in G-d and His Partners, like in G-d’s mother, daughter or son.
Since Abraham dinned id and wined with him, some Torah scholars derive that Abraham wasn’t too particular about people who worship G-d and His Partners. He did not see Malki Zedek as his potential heir.
Malki Zedek’s Second error was to omit the Name YHVH. Abraham corrected him right away saying: “I’ve lifted my hand to YHVH the Supreme El, who buys the Heavens and the Earth.” (Genesis 14: 22)
Malki Tzedek’s third error was to take a share in the loot, in contrast to Abraham who did not. By this alone he disqualified himself to be Abraham’s heir.
Was Malki Zedek Noah’s son?
Some say that Malki Zedek was Noah’s son, Shem. This would not fit what we know about Malki Zedek.
Abraham and the King of Sodom
Abraham’s stance against THEFT is highlighted in his confrontation with the King of Sodom, as it says:
“And the king of Sodom came out towards Abraham
and he said to Abram: Give me the souls and take the properties for yourself.” (Genesis 14: 21)
“Abraham said to the king of Sodom:
I have lifted my hands to YHVH the Supreme El Who Buys the Heavens and the Earth
that I shall take nothing from a thread to a shoelace
and that I shall not take anything that is thine
lest you should say I have made Abram rich”(Genesis 14: 23)
The master of thieves, the evil King of Sodom, offered Abraham a large share of the loot. But Abraham rejected his offer and denied any desire to take anything from his hands.
Yes, THEFT was paramount in Abraham’s eyes.
Rightful Ownership was very important to him.
7: Abraham’s fear and Eliezer
The seventh figure who is mentioned in Abraham’s journey is his trustworthy servant Eliezer. Abraham would later send him to seek a bride for Isaac. At this point in the story Abraham was struck by fear. Let’s remember that Isaac was not yet born.
So after his winning the War Abraham was struck by tremendous fear, as it says:
“After these things that had happened
the words of YHVH came to Abram in a VISION saying,
Fear not Abram, I shall remain a shield for you,
Your compensation shall be immeasurable…” (Genesis 15: 1)
He feared what?
Some say he was struck by fear that he had exhausted his merits so that if the four Kings would come back against him in vengeance, no more miracles would happen to him (Rashi)
But from Abraham’s answer to YHVH we see that he feared he would have no heir, as he says:
“What would you give me and I am childless,
And my household master is the Damascus Eliezer…”
Who is ELiezer? When Abraham and Sarah first came to the Holy Land they brought with them “All the souls that they had made in Haran” (Genesis 12: 5.) The rabbis interpreted this as “converts they had made in Haran.” Among these faithful ‘converts’ to the Seven Commandments was Eliezer from Damascus, who became Abraham’s most trustful servant and disciple. The name “Damascus” can be read as “the one who poured waters from his master to the peoples,” meaning he taught Abraham’s faith.
From all the people that Abraham had met, none was as qualified to be his heir as ELiezer. Later Abraham would trust him with the task of finding a bride to Isaac. Indeed, he is credited for discovering Rebecca.
But there was another side of Eliezer. On the verse that says: “Abraham said to his old servant who controls everything he had”(Genesis 24: 2) the Midrash remarks that “Eliezer resembled Abraham” so much that people sometimes mistook them from each other.
And when Abraham made Eliezer swear (Genesis 28: 3) the rabbis took this as a sign that “Eliezer was a CHEATER,” contemplating the marriage of Isaac to his own daughter.
In other words: Eliezer entertained the idea that not only he would inherit Abraham wealth, but also his position as a spiritual leader. After all he resembled Abraham’s external physics.
Now we can comprehend why was Abraham so fearful after his extensive journey. Isaac wasn’t yet born, and his only possible heir was ELiezer, whom he suspected of trying to STEAL the leadership from him.
So again we encounter a man who is spiritually very close to Abraham, and yet posses a threat of IDENTITY THEFT.
In fact, the closer a person gets to Abraham,
The more he resembles Abraham,
The more he uses Abraham’s vocabulary,
The more the threat of STEALING ABRAHAM’S FAITH!
No wonder that Abraham was so fearful.
What would Abraham do now?
END OF THEFT 7