Lech Lecha, The Origins of Faith


This week’s torah portion has G-d commanding Abraham to leave his family and land to a land that G-d would reveal to him.  Faith.  We read in the coming torah portions how Abraham is tested by G-d to determine how dedicated he is to G-d, and so that G-d may reward him and his descendants for Abraham’s cleaving to G-d and the covenants he made with G-d, which survive to eternity.  Having faith to dedicate one’s self to the Eternal.

Every year, come Yom Kippur, as I review the prayers coming up, my attention turns to the torture and murder of the 10 Martyrs, which we recite in the mussaf service.  Those who gave of themselves to sanctify G-d’s name.

After Rabbi Yishmael was tortured and killed, the account recounts: “The celestial Seraphim(angels) cried out bitterly (to G-d) Is this Torah, and this its reward.?”  G-d replies: “If I hear another voice, I will transform the universe to water, l’tohu vavohu (the world’s original state at its creation in Genesis).

I always wondered why G-d answered the angels with the threaten of turning the world back to its original state, why didn’t G-d merely ask the angels to remain silent?  This week in Daf Yomi, Sanhedrin 93, we find the answer and it is clarified with a parable:

A king provides a tailor all the raw material for a suit the king wants the tailor to make him, which includes fabric, threads, buttons etc.  When the suit is completed, the king looks at the suit and accuses the tailor of pocketing some of the material for his own use.  To prove that all the material was used for the king’s suit, the tailor literally has to undo all his stitching, bring the suit back to its original state, to reveal to the king how all of the material provided the tailor was used for the king’s suit.

When the angels cried out to G-d, asking G-d how he could torture 10 righteous rabbis who were devoted torah followers, G-d’s answer was that these tortures cannot be taken out of context, the tortures are part and parcel of the fabric of the world, the plan that G-d has for the world, that only He, who is eternal, knows how it fits into the fabric of the world.

G-d says to the angels that for them to understand how the torture fits into the fabric of the world, he would literally have to undo the world, bringing back to its very origins as it was before creation, for them to understand how the torture fits in to the world plan.

The essence of faith is trusting that the omniscient G-d knows all and does all for the benefit of the world.  He was past, is present and will be here in the future.

As Abraham followed G-d blindly through ten tests of faith, his merit has trickled down to his descendants for all generations.  What has permitted us to survive millennia is the faith that we were meant to survive by following the commandments in the torah, knowing that they are for our benefit, given to us by G-d with love.

Shabbat shalom.


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