Thursday, October 29, 2009

Avram: Shaping Heroes in Our Own Image

There is no greater example of Eric Auerbach’s argument that the Torah text is ‘fraught with background’ (rather than detailed descriptions) than the story of Avram who – seemingly out of nowhere – gets a call from God to leave his land, home and birthplace.

The lack of detail allows the Rabbis to shape their hero in their own image. For one, he becomes the pure believer who, already at the age of three, comes to total belief in the Divine.

For another, Avram is the grand philosopher – a mix between Aristotle and Socrates – whose mind gives him no rest until he finally arrives at monotheism and bravely fights against the rest of society to promote the truth.

Israeli educator Ari Elon has a nice angle on this as well as the connection between ‘breaking idols’ and our relationship with God.

“The monotheists among us see in our Avram the inventor of monotheism.

The rebels among us see in him the father of all young rebels and iconoclasts.

The revolutionaries among us see in him the young man who first conceived the idea of building a new world.

The yeshiva boys among us see in him someone who left the vanities of this world for a life of learning in the legendary Bet Midrash of Shem and Ever.

And the halutzim (Zionist pioneers) among us see in him the first young Zionist who left his parents home, a promising career and a homeland and went to redeem the promised land. “
In addition, Elon, who left the religious fold during his youth, makes a beautiful reference to his favorite childhood story – Avraham’s breaking of the idols – and what it says about our relationship with God.

I break therefore I am a Jew. I leave my homeland and my parents’ home, therefore I am a rooted Jew. Today I am no longer young, but I don’t give up on my obligation to create from within the tradition, and my right to rebel against it from its depths. There is a rich creative life after the death of my childhood God. There is no more complete God than a broken God.

It is a great pleasure to ‘renew the days of old’ and to return to our bookshelves filled with the broken tablets and shattered idols. It is a great pleasure to make puzzles from all these pieces of ourselves, who have been created – thank God – in the broken image of God.”

Original from


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