"Avraham My friend"
Cheshvan 7, 5771/October 15, 2010
"The darkest hour is just before dawn." That's what they say. When was mankind's darkest hour? Was it the generation of the flood, when man's iniquity forced G-d's hand, and the devastating flood occurred? Was it the generation of the dispersion and the mixing of tongues when man's meteoric rise in self-deceiving narcissism led to his attempt to elbow G-d out of this world? Or was it the generation into which Avraham avinu - Abraham our father - was born?
"I am HaShem, Who brought you forth from Ur of the Chaldees..." (Genesis 15:7) Ur, the name of Avraham's native city, also bears the meaning, in Hebrew of "light" or "fire." Midrash refers to this when describing how Avraham, still a young man, was thrown into a fiery furnace on account of his belief in the One G-d. We can also learn from this another truth: That if it hadn't have been for the light of Avraham, the flame that he kindled while still in the city of Ur, darkness would have overcome creation for a third time. But unlike the generation of the flood or the generation of the tower of Bavel, Torah doesn't describe to us what great peril humanity found itself in during the generation of Avraham. What changed?
Concerning the generation of the flood, a corrupt and despicable generation, G-d called upon Noach, "righteous among his generation," (ibid 6:9) to build an ark and save all living creatures. In the generation of Bavel, there was no one there to call out to. Or could it be that the time of G-d calling out to man was over? G-d had already called out twice to man. He called out to Adam, asking, "Where are you?" (ibid 3:9) and He called out to Noach, saying, "Build an ark." (ibid 6:14) But G-d only called out to Noach when it became clear that Noach wasn't going to call out to G-d. And by then it was too late for the great mass of humanity. For G-d's instructions to Noach came with a price: the life-destroying waters of the flood. And G-d concluded His covenant with Noach with the promise that a second flood would not occur. G-d would no longer express His disappointment with mankind by threatening man's existence. He would let man imperil himself, as man did in the generation of the dispersion.
So G-d waited. And within generations the dark clouds of corruption and cynicism and deception; of a totalitarian, one-world government ruled by thought police, which pervaded and permeated every aspect of life, gathered once again to blacken the skies and threaten man's future. And then Avraham came and called out to G-d.
Midrash tells us that Avraham smashed his father's idols, and by doing so, caused such a sensation and such a scandal in society, threatening both those in power, and the very all-embracing false orthodoxy that kept them in power, that he had to be eliminated. Hence the fiery furnace. But the fire was just as phony as everything else in society and Avraham walked out unscathed. And if Torah doesn't relate any of this explicitly, and begins the chronicle of Avraham's life with G-d's word, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you," (Genesis 12:1) this is because Avraham, by calling out to G-d, and by reintroducing G-d to his fellow man, pre-empted the chaos and devastation that was surely to come. Dawn had arrived.
Avraham blazed a new trail, and forged a new relationship with G-d. Twenty generations earlier it was G-d who came looking for man, who was hiding from Him. Now it is Avraham who has come looking for G-d, when G-d was hiding His face from man. This is why G-d refers forever to Avraham as, "Avraham My friend." (Isaiah 41:8) For Avraham rescued man, the crowning glory of G-d's creation, by reintroducing man to G-d. And that, as they say, "was the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the month of Mar Cheshvan, the Torah reading of Lech Lecha, the Rambam, who this week, 835 years ago, ascended the Temple Mount, all under the rubric of the "Faith Connection." For the concept of faith shows up everywhere, all around us: Itís the backdrop of everything associated with Mar Cheshvan, as well as the Torah portions and the career of our illustrious forefather Avraham. And the great Maimonidesí historic pilgrimage to the Temple Mount was also an aspect of his undying faith that the Holy Temple would be rebuilt.