Contributed by Marcel
Why did G-d choose Abraham, over all others?
In the parsha Noah, G-d appeared to show understanding when He reminded Himself “the devising’s of man’s mind are evil from his youth”, (possibly referring to Adam and Eve), and thus G-d swore He would never destroy man again, using floods. (Jewish Publication Society Page 15)
In contemporary times, man’s evil mind could be interpreted as the ego.
The ego is identified by persistent ongoing thoughts and negative feelings (fear), for both real or imagined situations or circumstances. We have an ego to keep us safe, and perhaps as stated, the ego originated when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of knowledge, and immediately felt unsafe.
The ego is certainly preoccupied in trying to understand everything, but tends to fail when trying to understand people, or the complexities of life. The ego is present and active during the use of intellectualization, solving problems, self -absorption finding issues, concerns. In addition, whenever we use expressions such as “I” or “Me” or “Mine”, our ego is at work.
It appears G-d chose Abraham, because he had a small ego, and was therefore primarily driven by the only other powerful feelings apart from fear; love and positivity. Not many individuals can boast of love as the primary response, rather for most people fears and concerns are the default positions.
In Lech Lecha there are a number of instances that point to Abraham’s inherent ability to draw on love.
- Importantly, we are reminded Abraham was a shepherd, and it appears G-d preferred shepherds to farmers. When G-d declared to Adam man would work hard all his days tilling the soil, Abraham apparently decided otherwise. Instead he would sit back and watch his herds do the work, and G-d liked this (The Philosophy of the Hebrew Scriptures by Yoram Hazoni). G-d it appears likes us to challenge Him, especially at times when the ego will emerge, grumbling and complaining, just as Cain the farmer did, when he saw G-d preferred his shepherd brother Abel.
- Abraham was a listener rather than a talker. Thus he heard G-d tell him to uproot from his homeland, and relocate far away. Abraham did this without question or complaint. An extraordinary feat for an old man, with lots of staff, chattels and animals. However, listening to the Universe provides the courage to embraced the unknown, unlike the ego that dreads the unknown. Most of the chatter in our heads appears to beguile us, without realising it is the chatter of the ego.
- Interestingly when it came to the well-being of G-d’s creations, Abraham lost his compliance, and challenged G-d. For example, prior the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah. And G-d was prepared to listen to Abraham. Both knowing the challenges came from a position of love. Unlike the ego, where it is every man for himself.
- Abraham was highly principled. For example, he allowed his nephew Lot to choose grazing land first, and then Abraham then travelled in the opposite direction with his cattle, trusting once again the Universe would guide him. Abraham was able to take others perspectives. He valued cooperation rather than competition. Unlike the ego, which only thinks about itself, and treats the world as a means to an end.
- Abraham felt gratitude toward G-d for all his possessions, and was humble, not arrogant. He did not boast and pretend that his wealth came from all the hard work and his enterprising nature. When the King of Sodom offered Abraham spoils, he declined suspecting the King of Sodom would grand note himself in the future, boasting how it was he who made Abraham rich. Unlike the ego, which trusts no one, envies others, and is always trying to bolster its image and its bank account.
- Abraham was not a sycophant. When G-d announced Sarah would have a child, Abraham fell on his face laughing, knowing G-d saw his response. The ego would never bite the hand that feeds it, so would stay silent, but chuckle inwardly.
- In conclusion, parshas Lech Lecha reminds us to continue to manage our ego. Using love as the energy force means we can challenge and not attack, or sabotage. In particular the parsha reminds us that we must challenge ourselves, and the best way to do this is to challenge the Ultimate first. When He listens to us, it opens the portal of self consciousness, and the ability to manage ourselves, as the ego regularly deceives between right and wrong.
- Piety is one thing, but following G-d’s commandments is another. The alte Rebbe said it well in relation to the Sitra Achra (animal soul/ego). He tells us to shout and scream and get angry with the Sitra Achras, as a way of subduing it. (Tanya)
- Finally, I will never forget the words of the late rabbi Chaim Gutnick addressing a group of traumatised Holocaust survivors about fifty years ago. In his usual passionate way, he encouraged us to get angry with G-d. And that G-d needed to know we cared about Him, in a world where many has given up on Him. If a stranger does something wrong, we tend to manage, but when a loved one does the same thing, we can become enraged. This is a true sign of love sharing that pain, and this is what G-d needs from us.
I believe that imagination plus knowledge leads to creativity. My writing is about using the little knowledge I have, and combine it with my imagination that has no limits, to generate creative responses to the Hebrew Scriptures.
My hope is that my creative response will also awaken the reader’s imagination, so together we can create something even bigger, and both move closer to the Ultimate Creator.
*Wherever “man” is mentioned, “woman” is also intended