Thursday, November 10, 2005

In the Footsteps of A Great Patriarch

Our great grandfather Avrohom Ovinu (our patriarch Abraham) as understood in the chareidi world was not a romantic. One might not want to go as far as calling him an empiricist, but he was certainly a man of logic, the original Maimonides.

So as three year olds listening to the parsha (bible portion of the week) we are taught how Avrohom, born into a pagan world, would engage those he met, in debating the veracity of the varied deities, that those ancient peoples respected and feared. We hear that Avrohoms father owned an idol shop; whether he had a small boutique or an emporium we are not told, but he definitely sold statues and graven images to those who required them. On occasion Avrohom would be asked to manage the business. A punter would enter. Avrohom would ask him penetrating questions. How can you justify serving a terracotta model? How can you pray to a stone statue that was fashioned but yesterday? The punter would be flummoxed by these questions and walk out with his head spinning but no idol.

One such day when Avrohom was in charge he smashed every idol in the shop except the very largest one. Avrohoms father was understandably furious and demanded an explanation. Avrohom told him that the biggest deity had demanded respect from all the lesser ones. When this respect hadn’t come the big one simply smashed all the others to smithereens. When his father angrily responded that statues neither speak nor move around, Avrohom retorted that if that was indeed the case why did he bother serving them?

And then we learn that Avrohom, with his phenomenal mind had, already by the age of three, deduced by a very simple logical method the existence of the one and true God. The reasoning is so simple that I feel that I can repeat it here. Initially Avrohom had thought the earth must be a diety. But no, the earth is not all-powerful; does it not depend on the heavens for rain? And so Avrohom decided he shall prostrate before the king of the firmament - the sun. But come the night and the sun vanishes to make way for the moon. Avrohom reasoned that the moon must therefore be divine. But the moon shines only by night. And so finally by observing the regular rhythm of day and night, of the seasons and all the natural laws, Avrohom inferred the presence of an omnipotent and wise creator. How do the Heavenly bodies rise and set at an appointed time? There has got to be a higher intelligence directing them.

And so to all you sceptics who question the basic tenets of chareidi Judaism I have the following message. Know that from the beginning our theology was born through a process of observation and deduction. Ours is not a religion based on raw emotion or primordial senses. Our way of life is rooted in a philosophical approach and logical thought. Any objective observer would agree that we are deserving descendants of our trail blazing patriarch.

3 Comments:

Blogger Circle in Square said...

So where, oh where, did we go wrong? And why?
And where do we go from here?

7:40 PM  
Blogger rebelmo said...

How in the world can anyone substantiate what was going on in Avraham's mind and his logic. This is exactly the problem- teaching midrash as peshat. Very nice stories but best left for the kids. Its amazing how a sugya can be dissected over and over by rishonim and achronim, while tanach stories remains on a 3rd grader imagination level.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

This site has a bunch of info.
http://torah.org/ and interactive stuff too.

12:41 AM  

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