Thursday, 2 January 2014

Why Did God Choose Avraham?

Parshat Lech Lecha begins with the words:
 "Vayomer Hashem el Avram, Lech Lecha Mae-artzecha Umimoladetecha umebeit avicha el haaretz asher ar-echa." 
"Hashem Said to Abram, Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you."
Avraham must leave to eventually to settle in the Holy Land of Israel. 
The question is, why does Avraham merit being the patriarch of the Jewish people? The pshat (Text) gives no explanation as to what Avraham Has done to prove his worth. This is the future of the Jewish people at stake here!
We end up seeing Avraham's worth through parshat Lech Lecha, Vayera, and Chayei Sara. He has awe inspiring qualities and amazing belief in Hashem.
The Or Hachaim HaKadosh points out an interesting matter. The Pasuk says Hashem spoke to him and then later, when he arrives in Israel, he appears to him. Yet, in every other instance, Hashem appears to the person and them speaks to them. For example: Moshe and the burning bush. 
Why would Hashem switch around what seems to be the natural order of things?
Rabbi Benjamin Yudin answers the Or Hachaim Hakadosh. Following Avraham, every individual to whom God appears has a sense of belief and trust in God. From where do they get it? From none other than Avraham Avinu himslef. Just as a father literally passes down his DNA to his children, so too Avraham Avinu passed down belief in God. It is literally in our blood. 
Avraham, however, did not have anyone who would pass belief down to him. Hashem couldn't simply appear to him just yet. He does not appear to Avraham until he tests him to see if he would be willing to follow his decrees. 
But why can't he teach monotheism in his homeland? They certainly needed it.
Because he needed to go against his nature. Only by doing so could he truly exhibit his true belief in Hashem and allow God to appear to him. 
The greatness of Avraham is summarized by Lech Lecha. it was something which Avraham could not understand but went through with anyway. 
As Rav Johny said, "He was a really nice bloke."
Rabbi Frand institutes it to his faith and courage to allow himself to be thrown into the fiery furnace instead of denying Hashem.
Avraham's extraordinary trait of eternal optimism, his refusal to acknowledge the impossibility of any task is inspiring. For example, when Hashem tells Avraham to count the stars in the sky, He actually tries.
The Ramban says that he was chosen from his endurance through the persecution the Chaldeans put him through for his faith in Hashem.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks furthers this idea, saying, "(He) had the courage to be different.... He recognized God.. (but), his faith did not start with an answer, it started with the question, 'Is it possible that the world lacks a ruler?', To which God replied, 'I am that ruler.'" 
Nechama Leibowitz decisively says that, "The very fact that God had chosen him as the object of his trials was in itself evidence that he was worthy to be chosen." Rabbi Benjamin Yudin gives a different answer. 
In a private interview, he explains his interpretation.
"There were other monotheists in the world besides Avraham. If there weren't, 'yeshivat shem v'aver' wouldn't have existed. Avraham happened to be special. He was able to take his belief in God and act on it. He brought Hashem into the everyday and made it a way of life; a lifestyle. He influenced those around him and those after him to walk in the way of Hashem. That is what it means in 18:19, "For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice, in order that Hashem might then bring upon Abraham that which He had spoken of him."
It was not enough that he was a good guy or a monotheist, though you cant be a good guy without belief in one God, he needed to be both. And on top of that he needed to be able to bring people into the fold. He was able to synthesize man to man, with man to God. Such was the greatness of Avraham."

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