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The Weight of Gold – Abraham

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When I helped guide a young Christian business associate through a spiritual crisis, little did we know that it would result in a life-altering book. The Weight of Gold brings out the Torah’s universal messages for personal growth and social justice, showing that the Torah is indeed the User’s Guide to the human soul. Follow this blog each week for new insights into this ancient text.

One should be prepared at all times to review one’s life and to start all over again in a different place. – Etty Hillesum

This week’s Torah reading introduces the character of Abraham. Each year I struggle to say something useful about this portion without losing my patience with thousands of years of dogmatic teaching about the father of three great religions.

God tells Abraham, “Go forth from your land.” My struggle is with the widely accepted interpretation that Abraham is special because God chose him. To which I say: God, if people achieve greatness only because You foreordained it, then You leave nothing over for the rest of us. If the greatness of our leaders is predetermined, then the Torah requires the rest of us to be mindless automata, blindly doing as we are told. Most insidious of all, it means that Abraham is not a role model; if God chose him, predetermined that he would attain spiritual greatness, then Abraham is not, in fact, great.

Greatness is attained through struggle, through meeting challenges. How is Abraham challenged if he is playing out the cards dealt from a stacked deck? If God created us in God’s image, then we are meant to think, to create, to change the world each of us in our unique way. This becomes impossible if we are mere victims of fate.

Early on, God tells Abraham (Gen. 13:16), “I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, such that if a man could count the dust of the earth, so shall your seed be counted.” Later, God tells Abraham (15:5), “And [God] took [Abraham] outside and said, ‘Look up to the sky and count the stars if you can count them.’ And [God] said to him, ‘So shall your seed be.’”

Which is it? Are Abraham’s descendants like the dust of the earth, or like the stars of the sky?

A hint comes from the text itself. The dust of the earth is undifferentiated. God begins by creating the heavens and the earth. The upper world and the lower world. The pure spiritual world and the purely material........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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