Who was Abraham?
by Rabbi M. Hecht
Before there was Prometheus, there was Abraham. Abraham was a very firm, very friendly man whose raison d’etre was to spark a social revolution. He ran the first known soup kitchen in history, offering free food and great moral direction to all who came. He was a leader. He was a lone wolf. He was a writer and motivational speaker. He believed in himself. He believed in people. He believed in G-d. He believed in change. He believed in the world. He believed in changing the world. He was also the first Jew. And unlike Prometheus, Abraham actually existed.
At age three, little Abram (G-d changed his name to Abraham later) was a bit too smart for his own good. See, growing up in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq/Kuwait), there was a lot of idol worship going on—as a matter of fact, Abram’s dad Terach ran an idol shop, buying, selling and trading what amounted to lawn ornaments. But Abram asked the logical question we all ask as kids: “Where did we come from?” So he tried to figure life out. He thought the sun created the world—it’s big and powerful and domineering, after all. But the sun’s not around at night, realized Abram—so maybe it’s the moon. But the moon’s not around by day. Abram looked at the stars and mountains and valleys and oceans and rivers and plains and sky and earth and people leading crazy lives and the space that surrounds it all, and eventually concluded there had to be a Highest Intelligence behind the scenes.
When Abram became an adult, he did something revolutionary. Terach had Abram mind the store one fine morning... and returned to find every single stone statue smashed to smithereens—except one. This large little fellow still stood in the center of the chaos, holding a real mallet in his rocky hand.
“AAAAAAAAA-BRAAAAAAAAAAM!” Terach fumed. “Who did this?!”
“It was him!” smiled Abram.
“Him. The one in the middle. Holding the hammer thingy. Can’t you see?”
Terach looked at his son. Abram looked back. A few long, silent seconds passed. “Abram,” Terach finally sighed, “He’s a statue! He can’t move—he can’t do anything! I MADE him, for crying out loud!”
“My point exactly,” responded Abram.
Needless to say, Terach had a lot to think about.
Abram’s ideas made too much sense to warlord Nimrod, who considered himself Master of the Universe. He couldn’t handle it. “Society might worship G-d instead of me!” he wailed, and he tried to rub Abram out by publicly dumping him in a giant incinerator. But G-d cleared a fire-free space behind the flames, and three days later, out jumped Abram.
Needless to say, Nimrod and Kingdom had a lot to think about.
Still, Abram and father Terach were forced to flee. They packed their bags and headed 600 miles west to present-day Israel, spending five years of temporary residency in Charan (an ancient city located in northeastern modern-day Syria), where Abram’s skills as an author and orator brought thousands thronging. G-d then had him migrate to modern-day Israel, fans in tow, where he walked all over the place to symbolically assert his ownership, as G-d promised him, “This land will go to your children.” (Hence the Jewish claim.)
Abraham spent the remainder of his life perfecting his relationship with G-d, and running his roadside inn, where he would serve up great eats and teach travelers all about monotheism, or the belief in the One Universal G-d. Between his wife Sarah and concubine Hagar, he had eight children, most notably Ishmael, father of the Arab peoples, and Isaac, his spiritual heir and Patriarch #2 of the Jewish People. Abraham died a happy, peace-filled and exceedingly rich man at the ripe old age of 175, and was laid to rest in Hebron next to Sarah.
Abraham is the father of the Jewish people. As such, G-d blessed him on several occasions with innumerable descendants, and guaranteed their eternal survival with the Pact between Halves, a G-d/Abraham summit in which Abraham was supernaturally shown the Jewish future to the end of time.
Ten Steps to Total Perfection
G-d gave Abraham ten increasingly formidable challenges to maintain and strengthen his commitment to his beliefs over the course of his lifetime. Abraham overcame them all, unshaken and strengthened. They are: leaving his origins for an unknown destination, enduring famine without questioning G-d, having Sarah taken away by Egyptian pharaoh, single-handedly battling the forces of four kings, taking Hagar for a wife, performing circumcision on his self, having Sarah taken away by Philistine king, expelling his beloved wife Hagar, expelling his beloved son Ishmael, and nearly sacrificing his beloved son Isaac (only to be stopped by an angel in the nick of time).
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