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Abraham, Our Father

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

Library » History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Avrohom Avinu (Abraham Our Father) was born at a time when idolatry ruled everywhere. Even his own father Terah was an idolater, who, in fact, made a thriving business of selling idols of various sizes and various materials. (Under Abraham's influence Terah, eventually turned over a new leaf and died a G-d fearing man.)

At the age of three, as our sages tell us,1 Abraham recognized that there was, is, and will be but one G-d, the creator of heaven and earth. Abraham dedicated his whole life to spreading the knowledge of G-d. G-d was one and only in the heavens (on earth no as yet knew Him, except Abraham), and Abraham was the one and only man on earth who knew G-d and worshipped Him. Abraham was known as "Ho-Ivri" - "the Hebrew," which also means "the-one-on-the-other-side" - because all the world was on one side, and he alone was on the other. But soon the "G-d of Abraham" came to be known by more and more people. Every man who left Abraham's tent, and every woman who left Sarah's tent, had learned something about G-d, and went away blessing the "G-d of Abraham." Even to this day, when we address ourselves to G-d in our Shemone-esrei prayer three times daily, we pray to the "G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob," and conclude the first of the eighteen (actually, nineteen) benedictions with "Blessed . . . the Shield of Abraham." Only then follows the second benediction "Blessed . . . Who revives the Dead." This emphasis on the "G-d of Abraham" is an everlasting tribute to our father Abraham and the fulfillment of G-d's promise to him, "I shall make thy name great." This also emphasizes that the Jewish idea of G-d is unique and exceptional and quite different from the idea of G-d held by all other nations of the world. Although many nations of the world have abandoned idolatry as it was practiced in days of old, and also speak of G-d the Creator, or of One G-d, and the like, it is not the "G-d of Abraham" that they worship, but their own idea of G-d, which is radically different from ours. The difference is deep-rooted, and it can best be seen in the different way of life of the Jew and the gentile.

Although many nations of the world have abandoned idolatry as it was practiced in days of old, and also speak of G-d the Creator, or of One G-d, and the like, it is not the "G-d of Abraham" that they worship, but their own idea of G-d, which is radically different from ours
From our father Abraham we inherited not only true ideas but also wonderful character traits. As we can see from what the Torah tells us about the life of Abraham, and from what we learn from our Sages of the Talmud and Midrash, Abraham was the embodiment of the highest qualities of character. One of them was the quality of loving kindness which was boundless in him. He loved all people, even total strangers. His love of people expressed itself in many ways, not least in hospitality, which he practiced daily to perfection. The story of the three angels who came to him disguised as wayfarers, is well known. Here he was, a man of ninety-nine years, in pain (it being the third day after his circumcision), on an unusually hot day, sitting outside the entrance to his tent, looking out for wayfarers. Our Sages tell us that G-d wanted to spare him trouble, and therefore made that day exceptionally hot, so that no wayfarers would venture out. But seeing how upset Abraham was at not being able to practice hospitality, G-d sent him the three angels disguised as men. Abraham was so happy to see the strangers that he forgot his old age, his pain and the heat of the day. He ran to meet them; he ran to prepare a sumptuous meal for them. Though he had many servants ready to do his bidding, Abraham himself fetched water for them to wash their feet, and he and Sarah personally attended to the meal.

Footnotes

  • 1. Nedarim 32a.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Tanya
Foundation text of Chabad chassidism. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, and first published in 1796. Considered to be the "Bible" of Chassidism.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Sarah
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Canaan
The land which G-d promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Named after the Tribe of Canaanites who dwelt there at the time. Eventually, when the Israelites conquered the land in 1272 BCE, it was renamed the "Land of Israel."
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.