The Dawn Of A New Era – Avraham and Sarah Have Arrived!
The year 1948 after creation saw the dawning of a new age in the life of the universe. Amidst the overwhelming moral decadence, affluence, and paganism of Ur Casdim, a singular force was born into the family of Terach that would alter human destiny for all time. Never again would the knowledge of a single G-d, who cares enough to reward and to punish, be absent from the structure of society. By the sheer force of his love and conviction, Avraham the son of Terach, along with his wife Sarah, brought G-d into the world. The 175 years of his life would be the greatest blessing ever bestowed upon “the families of the earth”.
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers 5:3) states, “There were ten generations from Noach…until Avraham Avinu came along and received the reward of them all”. And within the message of this short Mishnah lies the the essence of our mission as the “Chosen People”; why we, the great grandchildren of Avraham and Sarah, were selected to be the Chosen People; and what the true meaning of Bracha (blessing) is.
As Avraham left his homeland of Ur Casdim in 2023, at the age of 75, along with his 65-year-old wife Sarah, Hashem promised that “all the families of the earth would be blessed through him and his children”. While blessing includes material success or other worldly pleasures, the greatest possible “blessing” is the realization of one’s potential. Thus, the universe, created by the “word of G-d”, is the setting wherein which humankind can achieve their potential for recognizing and relating to the Creator.
At first, Hashem placed humankind in a “Garden”, where His presence was revealed in the magnificent perfection of nature. Every conceivable human need was provided for, so that humankind could spend their substantial time realizing His manifest presence in nature, and understanding the responsibilities that accompany that knowledge.
The total destruction of “all living things” during the Mabul heralded a change in the structure of our relationship with the Creator. From then on, our time would be limited to 120 years, and each of us would be responsible for sharing our knowledge of the Creator with each other and our children. The natural world alone is insufficient as the means for understanding the essence of our purpose in having been created. We now need teachers who, through their instruction, will show us the hidden, yet revealed, presence of the Almighty.
In the 10 generations that followed the Mabul, a handful of individuals came to recognize the presence of the Creator. Men like Shem the son of Noach, along with his great grandson Ayver, opened a “Yeshiva”, a Bait Medresh, a place of study, in a location that would one day be called Yerushalayim. There, the few truth seekers could find understanding and fulfillment. They didn’t advertise or proselytize, they didn’t offer outreach or adult education, they simply waited for the infrequent seeker of truth to come knocking on their door.
Avraham was different. Once he realized that there must be a Creator, he too sought out this haven of truth to further his understanding. The essence of his studies translated into the obligation to emulate the Creator by doing acts of Chesed – kindness. In the same way that Hashem’s purpose for creating and sustaining the world is the ultimate act of kindness, so too, must we do Chesed. He understood that the greatest Chesed possible was to help others recognize the manifest presence of G-d in nature, and urge them to assume the responsibilities of creating a society that reflects His presence.
Acting upon their understanding and convictions, Avraham and Sarah went out into society to teach them their potential for recognizing and relating to the Creator. In so doing, all the families of the earth were “blessed” through them, and Avraham earned the historic title of “The Father of Monotheism”.
The Mishnah teaches us that the responsibility for teaching monotheism should have been the prerogative of all people. Any person or nation could have embraced this job and become “The Chosen”. However, only Avraham did so. Therefore, his and Sarah’s greatest reward was to have children and descendants that would continue their work of teaching the world about G-d. Their reward was to give birth to a nation that would one day receive the Torah, the instruction manual for revealing the Creator in nature and the means for introducing Him into the daily workings of society. Parshas Lech Lecha relates the story of Avraham and Sarah, and their unique success in teaching the world about Hashem. May we as their children continue to exemplify their teachings.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA.