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It is Time to Pay Attention: D’var Torah for Lech L’cha, 5784

10/23/2023 09:14:15 AM

Oct23

Rabbi Rudin

In this week’s Parsha, Lech L’cha, we are introduced to Abraham. 

Kind of a weird introduction, actually. “G-d said to Abraham, ‘Go from your country, your birthplace, your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and magnify your name and through you all the families of the world will be blessed…and you shall be a blessing.”

So one day, this Mesopotamian named Abraham hears a disembodied voice and sets off to Canaan and into history.

Really? Isn’t there more to the story?

Of course there is. But the written Torah gives us only the outline. It is up to the inner Torah, the oral Torah, to show us the full picture.

But the full picture is also…weird. Listen to this Midrash:

Everywhere that Abraham looked, he saw the world like a burning palace. In agony, he cried out- ‘is there no ruler in this burning palace’?  At that moment, G-d revealed G-dself and said, ‘I am the Ruler of this palace.’

The Midrash I think is saying that Abraham saw a world afire. Not the natural world of harmony and beauty, but the human world of civilization, stained already with the wars of newly risen empires, ruled by power-lusting god-kings enslaving humanity in a bloody maelstrom of enslavement, hatred, oppression, violence, bloodshed and unending rivalry.

Witnessing the unending injustice and heartbreak, Abraham raises his fists to the sky and shouts his outrage and pain: Is there no source of unity, of justice, of love? And at that moment of overwhelming darkness, Abraham discovered that there is indeed a moral center of endless compassion and justice. He experienced the call of a Presence beyond even the boundaries of universe and the self and he knew with a certainty beyond reason or explanation what he had to do.

And that call to create a family, then a clan, tribe and people who, like Abraham, is called to be an exemplar of compassion and justice has and continues to change the world.

We live in a world, like Abraham’s, of increasing chaos. The old idols, clothed in different vestments perhaps, arise again. But instead of a single Abraham, crying out in the darkness-

There is us. A nation of Abrahams. We must not turn away. We must confront the storms; we must stand as Jews with Israel realizing that the confrontation of today that rages in Israel, in the world, on our campuses and even in our towns, is the same confrontation between humanity and brutality whose stark and horrific essence we saw to our horror on Shemini Atzeret in southern Israel. We must not look away. We must be the force for moral clarity, moral outrage and against the idolatry of false equivalency and tolerance for terror that too many have succumbed to. We must be Abraham and go forth from our comfort zone, advocate, and demand a better world.  The palace is burning- we must be the ones who call forth the hidden One to guide splintered and battered humanity back to love and unity.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784