Replicating Abraham’s transformative adventure to compassionate himself.
A fisherman was sitting by the river fishing. Along came a affluent man and watched with admiration as every few account he would reel in addition adequately ample fish. After alone an hour, the fisherman began to backpack up and leave. The affluent man ran over to him asked, “Why are you abrogation so soon?”
“Well,” said the fisherman, I’ve bent abundant angle to aftermost me for the anniversary and I don’t charge any more. Now I’m activity home to abstraction Torah and absorb time with my family.”
“But anticipate of what you could do with added fish,” the affluent man implored. “You could advertise the added fish, use the money to advance in added fishing rods, again you could buy a baiter and appoint added bodies to do the fishing – while you administer the operation.”
“And what is the ambition of all this?” asked the fisherman.
“Well,” replied the affluent man, “you could again appoint addition to administer your business and retire to do what you absolutely appetite in life.”
With that, the fisherman bid the affluent man goodbye and said, “Thank you actual much, but I’m accomplishing that already!”
Idols ‘R Us
The point of this adventure is that sometimes we get so bent up in producing, accomplishing and acceptable successful, that we may never stop to ask, “What is activity all about? What am I absolutely active for?”
This week’s parsha tells the adventure of Abraham. Back he was three years old, Abraham empiric the apple of attributes with all its perfection, beauty, symmetry, precision, timing, balance, integration, coordination, accord — and he assured that for a apple so altogether designed, there charge be an able designer. Abraham had apparent God.
On the surface, this cessation is not so amazing. Take any three-year-old to a toy branch and appearance him the action of design, accomplish and assembly. Would he afield anticipate these toys are produced by accident?!
What is so altered about Abraham’s discovery, however, is that he lived in a apple steeped in idolatry. Account is a affected attack to amuse the basal animal charge to affix to a ambit above ourselves. For some, this agency abstraction a bronze of Buddha; for others, it’s owning a new Mercedes. During Abraham’s time, anybody had an idol.
Abraham’s analysis is all the added arresting accustomed that his ancestors endemic and operated a acknowledged idol store. One day, back Abraham was asked to watch the store, he took a bang and burst all the idols — except for the largest. His ancestor came home aghast. “What happened?!” he shouted. “It was amazing, Dad,” replied Abraham. “The idols all got into a action and the better idol won!” There was no way for his ancestor to respond; abysmal bottomward he knew that Abraham had acquainted into a added truth.
Abraham connected his accomplishment to argue others. He brought guests into his tent, which was accessible on all four abandon and pitched appropriate in the average of an inter-city highway. Abraham additionally authored a 400-chapter book agitation idolatry. And he endured all types of apology and animality for captivation behavior that were, to say the least, politically incorrect. Nimrod, as the best able apple baton of the time, was the one best threatened by Abraham’s account of a absolute God. So Nimrod threw Abraham into a ablaze furnace, adage “Let’s see your God save you now.” Abraham emerged unscathed.
In fact, the Torah calls him Avraham Ha-Ivri — Abraham the Hebrew. Ha-Ivri translates actually as “the one who stands on the added side.” The absolute apple stood on one side, with Abraham continuing close on the other.
What was the abstruse of Abraham’s absurd strength, and how can we accommodate this assignment into our lives today?
The acknowledgment is begin in the aboriginal ballad of the parsha. God appears to Abraham and says: “Go to yourself (“Lech Lecha”) — abroad from your country, your relatives, and your father’s house.” God is cogent Abraham that in adjustment to become absolutely great, he charge “cut the umbilical chord,” and commence on a adventure of advance and self-discovery — abroad from the accustomed routine.
We get ashore in a rut of associate pressure. Old friends. Old habits. Overbearing parents. Back I was growing up, a assertive acquaintance consistently capital to be a lawyer. But his parents capital him to be a doctor, so they could say, “My son the doctor.” He insisted on acceptable a lawyer, they insisted he become a doctor. The burden became so abundant that he went through 10 years of medical academy aloof to amuse his parents. (Upon completion, he went to law school, again accumulated the two fields and became a abuse attorney.) But the point is that he didn’t accept the backbone to breach abroad and alive his own life.
The aboriginal catechism we anniversary charge ask is: Area does my “life philosophy” axis from? Is it about a Greek admission to life? Roman? Eastern? Jewish? Try allurement yourself the afterward question: “If I had been built-in into a ancestors of Muslim fundamentalists in Iran, what would I be accomplishing with my activity today?” Because if you don’t attack with this question, again affairs are absolutely acceptable you’d be a Muslim fundamentalist!
As God told Abraham: “Go to yourself — abroad from your country, your relatives, and your father’s house.” Not to automatically adios society’s values. But to intelligently appraise their merit.
Everyone — after barring — has to go through this process.
A acclaimed clergyman already appear to me the abstruse of his greatness. He said: “My grandfathering founded one of the better yeshivas of avant-garde time. And my ancestor succeeded him as arch of the yeshiva. Growing up, I was amidst by the actual best that Judaism could offer. I advised with top scholars, I had admission to immense libraries of Torah books, and I grew up in a home that was the centermost of Jewish common life. I had it all. But at the aforementioned time, I acquainted like it wasn’t mine. I had been accustomed it, but I hadn’t acquired it.”
He continued: “So back I was 18, I fabricated a accommodation to abide a absolute action of self-examination. I took all of Jewish anticipation and practice, and emptied myself of it — metaphorically. I did not stop celebratory the mitzvahs. But intellectually, I put aggregate on the table so I could attending at it. I looked at Shabbos, for example, and asked myself: What is this? How do I chronicle to it? What aspects do I appreciate, and which aspects don’t I understand?”
A complete accord with God requires both an bookish and affecting connection. “Knowledge of God after feeling” leaves a being broken and cold. On the added hand, “feeling after knowledge” has been the base for every actual cult, apocryphal adoration and demagoguery.
Given the aggregation of “spiritual paths” clamoring for our absorption (combined with the animal addiction to achieve for half-truths and adequate compromises to boxy questions), Judaism instructs us to admission adherence additionally as an bookish inquiry. In the “Aleynu” prayer, we recite: “Know this day, and accede it in your heart, that the Lord is God…” “Know this day” is the first, bookish step. But it charge be aing by the affecting ability of “consider it in your heart.”
This clergyman continued: “I bare to abound up and become my own person. I again this action with all realms of Torah. It took years. But now my aesthetics are able and unshakeable. I apperceive who I am, and added importantly, why.”
A key to ability is activity through this process. Perhaps this is how the attitude began in America of activity abroad for four years to university. It gives adolescent bodies the adaptability to agreement with altered account and lifestyles, after accepting to be beneath the connected analysis of ancestors and friends. It is an befalling to ascertain who we absolutely are. (Tragically, however, those four years are generally spent added on partying than on austere self-examination.)
In our parsha, God suggests to Abraham where, as a Jew, he can acquaintance this best: Israel. As able-bodied for Jews today, one appointment to Israel is generally transformational. There is a historical, airy account about the acreage that puts activity into perspective.
Maybe you’ll say, “I don’t accept the time,” or “I’m too old.” The rabbis point out that the Hebrew chat for “life” — chaim — consistently appears in the plural form. This is because activity is a connected action of self-discovery. It is never too late. And now is the absolute time.
The Sfas Emes (19th aeon Europe) says that God tells anniversary one of us “Lech Lecha” — go to yourself. Abraham heard the call. Hopefully, we will, too.
Shabbat Shalom,Rabbi Shraga Simmons
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