Pre-Game Chatter: What kinds of factors cause you to take action? Are you motivated more by successes or setbacks? Are you motivated more by internal desires or external encouragement?
As we continue to grapple with how to move forward after Tuesday’s stunning elections –whether we are pleased or disappointed – we return to the story of Abraham, and his willingness to move forward in his life suddenly and irrevocably:
The Pitch: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” – Genesis 12:1
Swing #1: “Why is Abraham’s going forth to sacrifice his son considered a more significant and splendid act than his going forth to leave his father’s house? Because no matter what a man may have been able to do to come nearer to perfection in his own conduct, he has not fulfilled his life’s task until he has succeeded in training his children also to be loyal and perfect in their faith so that they will be able to carry on his work after he is gone. True, the command given Abraham to leave his birthplace and his father’s house was a severe test of character, but it was intended only for his own improvement, to remove him from a corrupt environment and enable him to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. The second test, however – Abraham’s readiness to offer up his only son as a sacrifice – gave proof that Abraham was willing also to mold the character of his offspring, imbuing Isaac with so much love for God that the youth was ready to go forth of his own free will to be offered up to the Lord. It was this second test of character that showed the true greatness and integrity of our father Abraham. Thus Abraham’s second ‘going forth’ was a finer act than the first.” – HaDrash VeHaEyun
Swing #2: “Why would this be the first of the ten trials by which Abraham was tried? Actually, this was a great and very difficult test for Abraham. For the text says that ultimately Abraham did not set out on the journey for his own benefit and reward but [simply], ‘Abraham went as God had told him’, which is to say that he went only because of the command of God, without any other specific motive. The test therefore was whether, after all these assurances of reward, he would be able to preserve the purity, doing as God wanted, without contaminating the act with his own motives or confusing it with his own benefit.” – S’fat Emet
Swing #3: “From this moment [the Tower of Babel incident] on, just as humans treat each other as different from one another in ethnicity, God also no longer treats humanity equally. … God begins a personal relationship with Abraham and his family. … This shift from the universal scope to the particular and national is at the core of the Hebrew Bible.” – Israel Knohl, The Divine Symphony
Late-Inning Questions: Do you agree more with HaDrash VeHaEyun, which minimizes the significance of Abraham’s move to Canaan, or S’fat Emet, which praises Abraham’s complete faith in God from God’s first command? Does Knohl’s emphasis of the personal relationship between God and Abraham teach us that we are more likely to take action when we are impacted by those closest to us? With America at a crossroads, what will enable you to take action to impact society for the better? Should we be more astonished by Abraham’s willingness to move forward, or more inspired to do the same?
On-Deck at Emanu-El: Every year, the Sisterhood Turkey Day Friday Night Live is a highlight of the synagogue calendar. Next Friday promises to be more different. RSVP to the synagogue office and join us November 18th for services at 6:00PM, followed by an amazing, home-cooked Thanksgiving Shabbat dinner prepared by our Sisterhood. This event always is a sell-out, so don’t wait!
The Big Inning at the End: And now for the difficult part for me … the baseball off-season. At this time of year, it’s common to refer to the words of former MLB Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti: “[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone.”
I take issue with the last words of that quote; for, if we reach out to one another, we are never alone. May this keep us going for the baseball off-season, and for whatever lies ahead for America.