And G-d spoke to Abraham & Sarah saying…

עשרה נסיונות נתנסה אברהם אבינו עליו השלום ועמד בכולם להודיע כמה חיבתו של אברהם אבינו עליו השלום
“With ten tests our father Abraham was tested” – The rabbis tell us in Pirkei Avot (5:3) – “and he withstood them all–in order to make known how great was our father Abraham’s love [for G-d]”.
The “tests” aim to answer some questions (why did G-d choose Abraham; why does it say ‘all of a sudden’ (in Genesis 22:1) that “G-d tested Abraham”) and leave many more unanswered (there is no agreement on what exactly are the ten tests; we struggle to explain why would G-d “test” anyone, let alone Abraham), but they do all agree that the last one was the akeida.
After the akeida G-d doesn’t speak to Abraham again. Some say that this is because Abraham failed, and G-d doesn’t want anything to do with those who are willing to sacrifice their children; and others says that Abraham passed all the tests with flying colors, and therefore, G-d didn’t need to give him anymore instructions.
I would like to offer a third option.
We’re used to thinking that the first time we hear about Arbaham’s life is in the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, but that is no so. Abraham is introduced at the end of last week’s parasha, Noah (Genesis 11:26-32). There is no “Action” and not much is told except for who are the main relatives in his family. We tend to ignore it, eager to get going with the story, although this is all information we will soon need. One detail should especially stand out: his marriage to Sarah. A careful reading reveals that G-d only speaks to Abraham after he marries Sarah, and indeed, the last time G-d speaks to Abraham is at the akeida, which coincides with Sarah’s death.
Thus, G-d never speaks to Abraham without Sarah.
In my metaphor, Abraham and Sarah can be likened to a radio and antenna. He might be the one doing all the talking, but without the antenna, there is no reception at all. Alternatively, he might be like paint and she – like the canvas. He can be colorful and active, but without a good surface, he won’t be able to truly express who he is.
In the beginning of Lech Lecha, the Torah tells us: “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came”. Rashi explains that the “soul they made (some translate asu as “had gotten”) are people they converted: Abraham teaching the men, and Sarah – teaching the women”.
Abraham and Sarah provide a unique model. To each other, they are family relatives, husband and wife, and parents. But as we know, those are challenged again and again. Ultimately, Abraham will have another wife and more children. But what makes them so successful is their joint spiritual, life-long mission and their complementary work towards it. Abraham & Sarah are the like the Adam & Eve of the Jewish people: the first human was formed from dust and filled with G-d’s breath, perhaps symbolizing the beginning of physical beings; Abraham & Sarah start their journey with G-d’s call. Adam & Eve are placed in the garden; they have no choice in the matter. They are also kicked out, which is a sad ending to a short story. Abraham & Sarah are not passive. They have the ability to respond to the call. When they pick up and go, it’s a good thing, and perhaps a tikun (repair) for a previous departure as they will work to create their own “paradise” somewhere else. This is how the Jewish people begin.
Shabbat Shalom.


This entry was posted in life and some, shabbat shalom, פרשת השבוע לחילוני האדוק. Bookmark the permalink.

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