Issue 8 –
Thoughts on Ancient Times & Current Events by Ashirah Yosefah
DESTINATION UNKNOWN, BUT PROMISING
Following in the Footsteps of Avraham
Har Avraham rises on
the plain of Elon Moreh near the city of
There is a tradition
that Avraham and Sarah traveled up the
Har Avraham, which overlooks Shechem as well as Har Eval and Har Bracha.
A gnarled and aged tree crowns its summit next to an ancient cave.
(© Ashirah Yosefah Photo)
“When they arrived in the
far as the site of Shechem, at the terebinth of Moreh.” (Bereshith 12:5-6)
We all know the story. Mankind went on a downward spiral after Adam and Chavah ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their descendents received deplorable levels of impurity and robbery was rampant. Hashem, the Righteous Creator and Judge, had to react. A tikkun, a spiritual correction was necessary. It came in the form of the the Flood. With the exception of Noach (a man deemed righteous in his generation) and the members of his family, all mankind perished. G-d had allowed 120 years for man to repent while Noach constructed the ark, but the window of opportunity was wasted. When the fountains of the deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens opened, mankind was found wanting.
A year later, Noach and his family emerged from the ark. It was a whole new world, just beginning to re-vegetate itself. Noach and his family had inherited the responsibility of repopulating it. G-d gave them some basic guidelines – the Seven Universal Laws for mankind – and the world commenced on a new period of history and relationship with the Creator that has continued to this very day. This, for every person on the face of the earth today, is a shared point of ancestry.
Ten generations later, Avraham
appeared on the scene of world history.
Already mankind had declined, as was paradoxically evident from their misguided
attempts under Nimrod to elevate themselves to the heavens by constructing the
Avraham’s own father, Terach, was a nobleman in the court of Nimrod. (1) By profession, he was a maker and merchant of idols. Awareness of the unseen Creator was lacking in the mind of mankind, but the Midrashim tell us that Avraham had a phenomenal mind possessed with great powers of observation and reasoning. He considered the merit of worshipping the earth as the sustainer of mankind, but realized it is dependent on rain. He considered the source of the rain. Rain falls from the firmament and the sun is the ‘king’ of the skies, but when Avraham prostrated himself to the sun, night soon came and the sun made way for the moon. Avraham quickly realized that the moon also had a limited period of transcendence. As he considered the orderly rhythm of day and night, the cycle of the seasons and the obvious natural laws at work within Creation, Avraham realized that there had to be an omnipotent, wise Creator of superior intelligence and power that had designed and was maintaining the universe … unseen though He was. Deciding to bow only to this G-d, Avraham became a rebel and a pioneer. He rejected his father’s gods and the gods of the world around him.
It’s always difficult to be a pioneer. The Midrashim tells us that Nimrod, the King of Bavel during Avraham’s days, had him imprisoned for ten years, then sentenced him to burn alive in a furnace when he still refused to worship elements of creation at Nimrod’s invitation. Just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego would experience centuries later, Avraham emerged from the fires unscathed, protected by the unseen G-d in whom he had placed his unwavering trust.
Released from prison, Avraham married Sarah and moved from Ur of Chaldees (Bavel) to Charan. His unyielding belief in this unseen G-d was turning heads and hearts. The Midrashim tell us that in Charan Avraham held public assemblies to proclaim the truth of the One Creator and the obligation on man to serve Him. He publicly refuted idol worship, and even wrote books to demonstrate his beliefs. In time, he gained tens of thousands of followers who had turned away from idol worship and believed in Avraham’s G-d. As the Torah tells us, Avraham and Sarah “made souls” (Bereshith 12:5, Parsha Lech Lecha). They dedicated their lives to service of Hashem and taught others to do likewise, Avraham influencing the men and Sarah the women.
Many times in Tanach, we find accounts of Hashem dramatically intervening a person’s life when they are either older (Avraham, Moshe) or young (David, Yirmeyahu). Avraham was seventy-five when he received the prophetic word of Hashem. His life was about to change dramatically.
“HASHEM said to Avram: ‘Go for yourself from your land, for your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Bereshith 12:1)
From your land: From all that has become familiar to you.
From your birthplace: From your past.
From your father’s house: From the strictures of family ties and influences.
To the land that I will show you: Destination unknown, but with the promise of future revelation.
Why have I taken such a long and winding path of ancient accounts to reach this point? Some may be saying, ‘why doesn’t she simply get to the point?” The point is this: We are living in times of tremendous spiritual upheaval in the world. In Eretz Yisrael, physical and spiritual realms are in a constant state of tension. You feel it every day. Amongst the nations of the world, tens of thousands of people report experiencing a spiritual awakening over the past decade. This quickening has been accompanied with spiritual upheaval, a tearing down of previous understandings, and the birthing of a pioneering spirit to move forward into uncharted spiritual territory.
Something is happening on a massive global scale. Could it be that G-d is preparing the nations for the day when the nations shall go up to the House of Hashem because the Torah shall go forth from Tsion and the Word of Hashem from Yerushalayim (Yeshayahu 2:3)? Could it be that Divine maneuverings are underfoot that are stripping away the inherited falsehoods and deception (Yirmeyahu -20) of centuries? Could it be that the day is approaching when ten men from every nation, tribe and tongue will take hold of the corner of the garment of a Jew and say, ‘Let us go with you, we have heard that G-d is with you.’ (Zechariah 8:23)?
In just seven days following
Shuvoo’s interview with
Our Sages tell us that four actions have the power to change a Heavenly decree: Tzeddaka (giving charity); tefilla (prayer); teshuva (repentance and improving one’s deeds), and shinuy shaim (being renamed). Some also add: Shinuy hamakom (changing residence). (2)
Avraham either experienced or was known for all of the above. The Sages tell us that “Moving to a strange place helps annul a Heavenly decree, since a man’s heart is humbled when he is exiled from his home.” (3) Surely this applies not only to a physical location, but also to spiritual ‘homes’ we create for ourselves. What can we learn from this? Can we compare it with what we see happening in the world today?
Spiritual transformation is a process. It is a process that requires change. Change is rarely easy and usually comes with a price tag of some nature. Change frequently involves leaving parts of our ‘old lives’ and former ways behind us. Avraham exemplifies this process for us beautifully. The religious mindset of the world around him left him feeling uneasy, so he questioned, examined the evidence, reasoned and made decisions based on observation and logic. Once he made up his mind, he began to change his life and, in doing so, changed the lives of those around him. He dared to differ with the idolatry of his father’s house and the family he grew up with. He stood his ground with the ruler of his day and did not weaken when he suffered consequences for having done so; the end result being that Hashem exonerated Avraham in the eyes of all. Avraham was not content to ride the wave of exhilaration that often comes when one is the recipient of a miracle. He continued to search and to develop his knowledge and understanding of Hashem and freely shared that of which he became convinced. And, when the time came, he left his community and his land and headed off, at Hashem’s behest, to a destination unknown, but promising.
“Hashem did not reveal to Avram where his journey would lead him. Avram traveled to an unknown destination. This rendered the trial of his leaving home all the more difficult.” (4)
Many reading this newsletter are most likely feeling an identification with Avraham’s spiritual journey.
“Avram passed the test successfully. He did not inquire even once: ‘How long will the journey last? Which place is it that You have in mind for me?’ About him it is stated (Tehillim 119:60), ‘I made haste and did not hesitate to keep Your commandments.’” (5)
The world we live in has the
most advanced forms of communication in the history of mankind. It is also one in which communication is
easily confused: Words have many
meanings. In the swirling momentum of
spiritual quickening that surrounds us, Bnei Noach, Jew, Israel, Lost Tribes,
Ephraim, Gentile all have different nuances and meanings depending on who you
are speaking to, and especially so between Jew and non-Jew. Perhaps we should rise above the semantics
and labels to recognize that the Creator of the Universe is obviously preparing
Hashem placed upon
In many ways, for Jews and Gentiles alike, this is uncharted territory. It demands changes on both sides of an ancestral divide, but Jew and Gentile alike share a common ancestor: Noach. We share the obligation to observe the Universal Laws given by G-d to Noach, and we all can take a lesson from one of the most inspiring figures in all of history, Avraham. I wonder if he wouldn’t tell us to let go of the hindrances of the past and get ourselves out towards a destination unknown, but promising.
(1) The Midrash Says – The Book of Beraishis, pg. 117, Noach
(2) The Midrash Says – The Book of Beraishis, pg.127-128, Lech Lecha
(2) Ibid., pg. 128
(4) Ibid., pg. 129