Lech Lecha and The Places We Find G-d

 

 Does the Torah tell us why G-d chose Avraham to be the first Jew? How do we normally imagine Avraham's "discovery" of G-d?

Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13

Translation Original
When God created the first human beings, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” [Translation by AJWS]
בשעה שברא הקב"ה את אדם הראשון נטלו והחזירו על כל אילני גן עדן ואמר לו ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן וכל מה שבראתי בשבילך בראתי, תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי, שאם קלקלת אין מי שיתקן אחריך

Bereishit Rabbah 39:1

Translation Original
The Eternal said to Abram, "Lech Lecha from your land, etc".....Rabbi Yitzhak said there is a parable about one that wandered from place to place,and saw a certain palace that was on fire/ illuminated. He said, "will you say that this palace is without a master?". The master of the palace looked out at him, and said "I am he, the master of the palace". So it was with Abraham our father that he said, "will you say that this world is without a director?". The Holy Blessed One looked out at him and said "I am the master of the world"....[trans. B Stanley]
א ויאמר ה' אל אברם לך לך מארצך וגו', ר' יצחק פתח (תהלים מה) שמעי בת וראי והטי אזנך ושכחי עמך ובית אביך, אמר רבי יצחק משל לאחד שהיה עובר ממקום למקום, וראה בירה אחת דולקת אמר תאמר שהבירה זו בלא מנהיג, הציץ עליו בעל הבירה, אמר לו אני הוא בעל הבירה, כך לפי שהיה אבינו אברהם אומר תאמר שהעולם הזה בלא מנהיג, הציץ עליו הקב"ה ואמר לו אני הוא בעל העולם, (שם /תהלים מ"ה/) ויתאו המלך יפיך כי הוא אדוניך, ויתאו המלך יפיך ליפותיך בעולם והשתחוי לו הוי ויאמר ה' אל אברם.

Suggested Discussion Questions

Was Avraham wandering when he found God? What is the connection between wandering and seeing something shocking? How can we open ourselves up to really see all that's going on in the world around us?
What is the difference between seeing a palace on fire as opposed to illuminated?


Leviticus Rabbah 4:6

Translation Original
A man in a boat began to drill a hole under his seat. His fellow passengers protested. "What concern is it of yours?" he responded. "I am making a hole under my seat, not yours." They replied: "That is so, but when the water comes in-it will sink the whole boat and we will all drown." [Translation by Hillel and Panim]
תני רשב"י משל לבני אדם שהיו יושבין בספינה נטל אחד מהן מקדח והתחיל קודח תחתיו אמרו לו חבריו מה אתה יושב ועושה אמר להם מה אכפת לכם לא תחתי אני קודח אמרו לו שהמים עולין ומציפין עלינו את הספינה

This text teaches that we must consider how our actions will impact others. We cannot be selfish. So too in the environment, we cannot use more resources than we are alloted, because then there will not be enough for other people. Similarly, if one person pollutes a body of water, it impacts the rest of world since everybody needs water and all waterways are connected. We all share this Earth, and we only have one. Therefore, we must be sure that our actions do not negatively impact somebody else.

 


Abraham Joshua Heschel, A Passion for Truth, p. 34

Original
One may look upon the world with enthusiasm and absorb its wonder and radiant glory; one may also see and be shocked by its ugliness and evil. The prophet Isaiah heard the angels proclaim “The whole earth is full of God’s glory” (Is. 6:3); Job, however, maintained that “the earth is given over to the power of the wicked” (Job 9:24).
This text was compiled by Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, NY, for Rabbi Matalon’s teaching on the American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Student Delegation. Their work was based on and inspired by The Dignity of Difference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Suggested Discussion Questions

Do you think the world can be divided into "Wonder and radiant glory" on one side and "Ugliness and evil on the other"? Where are there gray areas? Where are there clear divisions?

Could Isaiah's role as a prophet have influenced his view of the world in contrast to Job, who led a life full of suffering?
 


Genesis 2:15

Translation Original
The Eternal One placed the human being in the Garden of Eden, to till it and to tend it. [Translation by Hillel]
וַיִּקַּח יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן עֵדֶן לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ