Parshas Vayeirah 5776
In this week’s Torah reading we learn about the first two Jewish patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac. They each began their journey through life in different ways and connected together at the birth of Isaac. Abraham was the first Jew but Isaac was the first Jew born Jewish.
The process in which Abraham chose Almighty G-d, forming the genesis of the Nation of Israel – the Jewish people – began with a long period of intellectual search, inquiry, contemplation and analysis, finally concluding with the reality of Monotheism. As every effect requires a cause, especially such a sophisticated effect as our massive universe, he was convinced that there is a Master to this universe, a Creator of our world and Conductor to the Orchestra of the planetary and natural symphony. This process lasted from the age of three until the age of 52.
Then began a period of spreading and promulgating this significant awareness to everyone with whom he came into contact by speaking, promoting and communicating in any way that he could. Only then at the age of 99 came the inviolable, irreversible, conclusive action of entering into the covenant with G-d through circumcision.
The human natural process of commitment and behavior is to first contemplate and come to an intellectual conclusion of why something should be done, leading into a process of conversation, advice, discussion and testing sounding boards and finally we act on that which we have concluded.
As in every aspect of life, we first think it through then discuss it and then do it. That is the natural human approach.
The journey of Isaac began completely in the opposite direction. His first introduction to Jewishness was action, as he was circumcised at 8 days old when his mind could not yet contemplate nor rationalize. After that came communication and speech, as Abraham would teach him the way of life as directed by his understanding of G-d’s directives, as our Torah teaches when a child begins to speak his father teaches him the words, “Torah was commanded to us by Moses, an inheritance to the congregation of Jacob”. Only then, when the child’s mind is more developed, does he begin to contemplate upon those actions and behaviors that give him the unique role of a Jew.
The Jewish Torah way demands that action comes first and foremost. Though this might not fit into a rational social perspective, nonetheless we recognize today that when one behaves in a certain manner, especially a proper holy manner, his speech is different and his thoughts are different. It is action that is most critical and primary in Jewish life. That is why the Torah is the depository of the acts of Jewishness called Mitzvos, addressing every single aspect of our lives, from how to eat, sleep, dress, conduct business, interact with others etc. There is no part of life that is not directly addressed by the Torah in a very specified manner. This is most likely the power of the Jew that ensures his eternity, continuity, creativity and disproportionate exceptional contribution to civilization.
It is why our acts and behavior in a Jewish way trumps all other aspects. To be a Jewish philosopher or to be a Jew at heart does not cut it and does not insure those blessings that G-d gave to Abraham that are an inheritance to his children. It is how we live behaviorly that is the most critical and fundamental aspect and strength of the Jew. Try it and you will see that it does work.
G-d bless you and have a great Shabbos and good week,
Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar