Category Archives: 5777

Abraham the Individualist

Abraham the Individualist

Not armies, not nations, have advanced the race; but here and there, in the course of ages, an individual has stood up and cast his shadow over the world. -Edwin Hubbell Chapin

individualistIn the very first recorded conversation between God and Abraham, God commands Abraham “Lech Lecha” which can be translated as “go for you” or “go to you.” Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 12:1 explains that it is a command to “go your own way” or “follow your unique path.”

Rabbi Hirsch elaborates that one of the prominent beliefs during Abraham’s time was the primacy of the communal over the individual and the priority of centralization of authority rather than individual decision-making. It engendered the “tyranny of the majority” (a phrase originally seen in the writing of John Adams, and subsequently popularized by Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill).

Abraham, by leaving his country, his birthplace and his people, by demonstrating an unyielding belief in one God, by standing up to the entirety of the rest of the polytheistic world, indeed carved his own path. He demonstrated an unflinching capacity to do his own thing, to go his own way, to be his own person, to do what he knew to be correct though the entire planet thought otherwise. He is a model of the Individual, of the non-conformist, of the person who will take a stand for what is right though it is unpopular. His is the lesson that even if the majority believes in something or says something, it doesn’t necessarily make it right.

May we hold steadfast in our positive and unique paths.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the global Shabbat Project and especially to those organizing it and celebrating it in their own unique ways in Uruguay.

 

Humanity’s Harmonizing Diversity

Humanity’s Harmonizing Diversity

If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear. –Gene Roddenberry

noah

According to the biblical account, all of humanity descends from Noah’s three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafet. Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 6:10 explains that the name of each son carries great significance.

Shem, literally means “name”, suggestive of man’s ability to name things, to get to the heart of the phenomena he confronts. This is an intellectual and spiritual attribute.

Cham, meaning “hot”, represents the sensual aspect of man.

Yafet, from “beauty”, signifies man’s search for beauty in the world.

Rabbi Hirsch explains that these varying traits are purposeful and are meant to be channeled individually in the proper fashion as well as brought together to complement each other.

He learns it from the verse that states that Noah was “righteous, morally pure and walked with God.”

The intellectual attribute of Shem, instead of being directed to mundane matters, should seek to “walk with God”; the sensual traits of Cham need to strive for moral purity; and Yafet’s search for beauty should rather be a search for righteousness, for goodness. Each of these corrected traits then complement each other.

May we correct all of our traits at the individual level as well as at the global level.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the US Elections. While not harmonious it is certainly entertaining.

Why Creation Matters

Why Creation Matters

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

-Cecil Frances Alexander

creation-2The creation of our world, of our universe, lies hidden in the mists of time. The easy, simple belief was to believe that the world was, is and always would be. That there was no creation event, that there was no Prime Mover of time and space. That is the faith of those that would deny God.

However, since the advent of the Big Bang theory, which understands that ours is not a static universe, there is scientific support for the idea of some sort of beginning in time and space. This would seem to lend credence to the concept of a Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) by a Creator independent of space and time. Nonetheless, scientists go to great lengths to seek some primordial cause to the Big Bang that would remove God from the equation. They have yet to make any convincing cases.

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch (see here for biography), on his very first comments to the Book of Genesis, explains that belief in anything else than God as the be all and end all of the entirety of creation is the basis of all idol worship until this very day. That is the reason why the Torah starts with the story of creation, that God in effect brought existence into being. That is the foundation of correct belief. If we don’t believe that God is behind it all, responsible for all, we will be lacking in our faith and consequently in our actions and in our life.

God is the Creator. The Creator of Everything. That’s important.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To our sons Yehoshua Simcha and Yehuda Ohr on the occasion of their Bar-Mitzvah.