From Adam to Abraham
From the time of Adam’s blunder until the appearance of Abraham on the stage of world history, only three significant events took place. Cain and Abel had a fight and Abel lost. A deluge of Biblical proportions wiped out everyone except for a guy named Noah and his family, and an enormously ambitious construction project known as the Tower of Babel ended in bankruptcy.
Of course, a lot more happened in the nineteen hundred years that passed between the time of Adam and the life of Abraham, but in terms of the overarching meaning of human history, those three events were about it. Here’s why.
After Adam messed things up, God decided to stand back (actually Adam had shoved Him aside), take a more laissez-faire approach to matters, and wait for people to rise to the challenge of undoing the damage of Adam. Unfortunately, while God was waiting patiently, there was little effort made in the right direction. In fact, most of what was taking place made matters even worse, and people just moved farther and farther away from God. Though we are not going to examine Cain and Abel, the flood, or the Tower of Babel in any detail, suffice it to say that each represents a qualitative step in the wrong direction.
So while God was hoping and waiting for mankind to reverse direction—or if not mankind, then at least a nation or two—His waiting seemed to be in vain.
Then, one day it happened. With the appearance of Abraham, hope for mankind had been rekindled. Abraham (as we have already seen on pages 16-20) was a person who was able to see through the veil cast by the myths, and dogmas of his time, and make a clean break with the prevailing norms of consciousness. He was truly one of a kind. Abraham thought and lived differently from everyone else, and he was headed in the right direction.
The Mission: God and Abraham Strike a Deal
God wasn’t about to let a golden opportunity slip through His fingers, and so He initiated a remarkable relationship with Abraham.
“And God said to Abraham; ‘Lech Lecha, Go for yourself [not for Me] and leave your land, the community of your birth, your father’s home and head for the land that I will show you. And I will transform you into a great nation and I will bless you, and make you well known and you will be a blessing. And those who bless you, I will bless; and those who curse you, I will curse—and blessing and goodness will come to all the families of the earth, through you.”
In Abraham, God saw the makings of mankind’s way home. In Abraham, God saw a person who had the ability to raise a family that would grow into a nation capable of being a beacon for all the families and all the nations of the earth.
“And Abraham was ninety-nine years old when God appeared to him and said, ‘I am the ultimate force in creation, and you will walk before me and represent me with integrity. And I will set my Covenant between Me and between you and I will greatly increase you … And I pledge My Covenant between Me and you and your offspring after you, throughout their generations—an eternal covenant—that I, God, will maintain a unique relationship with you and your descendants after you’ … And God said further to Abraham, ‘and as for you, your obligation is to vigilantly preserve My Covenant, you as well as your descendants after you, forever.'”
In this covenantal agreement between God and Abraham, we have the establishment of a two-way relationship—an indissoluble partnership—that on the one hand establishes Abraham’s descendants as God’s point men in the world, while also committing God to using the totality of His absolute power to aid and support them in that endeavor. And the whole purpose of this partnership was nothing less than to remedy all the damage left in Adam’s wake, and to lead humanity to its ultimate purpose. Eventually, all the goodness, benefit, and blessing that God had intended for Adam and his descendants, would at last find its way to humanity through Abraham and his descendants.
“This covenant imposed binding obligations on both parties involved. Abraham herein committed himself to becoming God’s partner in both the repairing of creation and moving it to its final destiny.”
Malbim, 19th century Biblical commentator
It was with this uniquely outstanding human being, Abraham, that God entered into a covenant, and it was with the sealing of this covenant that history would begin a wide turn in the right direction. Though this turn would prove to be so wide that at times history did little more than creep along, still, the momentum created by Abraham and affirmed by God was so powerful that there was no stopping its ultimate success.
* In speaking about the first human beings, Adam and Eve, I will be referring to them collectively as Adam, or Man. This is not meant to slight Eve or any other women who have come since; it’s just a simpler way of doing things. Adam, in our context, means the original, prototypical human being. In truth, the nature of the first human beings is a very deep subject that is dealt with at length in the classical texts and is beyond the scope of this book.
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Shimon Apisdorf is an award-winning author whose books have been read by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. He has gained a world-wide reputation for his ability to extract the essence of classical Jewish wisdom and show how it can be relevant to issues facing the mind, heart and soul in today’s world. Shimon grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and studied at the University of Cincinnati, Telshe Yeshiva of Cleveland and the Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He currently resides with his wife, Miriam, and their children in Baltimore. The Apisdorfs enjoy taking long walks, listening to the music of Sam Glaser and going to Orioles games.
Shimon can be reached at [email protected]
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