Our Patriarch Avraham Avinu is known throughout the world as the father of monotheism, i.e., the one who went against the accepted belief of his time and spread the word that there is only one Creator. This is true, but it is not the essential teaching of our great forefather.
The fact of the matter is that in Avraham’s time, people knew that Hashem had created the world. Avraham was born when Noach was still alive and the Midrash reveals that they actually met and discussed Creation.
Everyone today knows that there was a World War II and many of us have heard firsthand from a survivor or veteran — or a son or daughter of a survivor or veteran — about the worldwide conflict that took place in that generation. That’s the way things are —people whose lives overlap know of the experiences and events of their predecessors.
If this is true, then why did people worship idols so soon after Creation?
Rambam explains that people felt that although Hashem did bring everything into being, He then used deputies to run the day-to-day events of the world. (Some even believed that He left historical developments to chance.) They felt that an officer of the King deserved respect and started to pay homage to the sun, the moon and all the other messengers of the L-rd. Eventually they were misled into serving the servant and then even the image of Hashem’s servant.
Avraham Avinu did not accept those ideas. He saw a palace-like environment called the Universe and saw the minute detail and complex interrelationship of all its components. He knew that this system was being micromanaged by one Power — Hashem. This was the message he started to spread throughout the inhabited areas of our planet. He taught that there is one Creator who is in charge of everything and is the one and only Power.
How is it, then, that so many intelligent people and great thinkers throughout history have denied these truths? Our Sages explain that a person is controlled by his or her desires. These motivate a person to act and think a certain way. Although one may think the truth is clear, in reality one is prejudiced by personal gain and personality flaws.
A great Rabbi had a student who left yeshivah to earn a living and raise a family. Years later they met and the student revealed to his mentor that although he had succeeded in building a solid financial base, he had ceased to observe the commandments of the Torah. He no longer kept Shabbat or the laws of kosher food or any other mitzvot. The man asked the Rabbi to help by answering his questions.
The Rabbi asked, “Did you have questions before you violated the Sabbath, or was it afterwards?”
“It was after I began to live a non-observant life that the hard questions were raised,” he replied honestly.
“Then I cannot answer your inquiries,” replied the Rabbi.
“Why not? You know the answers to everyone else’s questions!”
“True! I can answer questions, but yours are not questions — they are excuses. I cannot ‘answer’ excuses.”
We live in a time when there are so many things one cannot explain: suffering and tragedy for good people; success and pleasure for those who seem wicked; natural disasters and acts of terrorism. What does it all mean? Can there be a Creator Who is managing such events?
YES! Acceptance of things as they are and believing that they are for the best was implanted in our spiritual psyche by Avraham Avinu and we believe in the principle wholeheartedly. It is our forefather’s strength and vision that will guide us through the perplexing prelude to the final Redemption. Amen.
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.