by Rabbi Dovid Green
The question has been asked regarding the purpose of the Book of Genesis:
Since the laws we need to follow begin in the Book of Exodus, the Torah
really could have started there. However, had we started there, we would
lack the knowledge of the deeds of the Forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok, and
Yaakov. From their deeds and words we learn the foundations of having a
relationship with The Creator.
The Chofetz Chaim points out that many righteous men lived in the days of
Avraham. We know that Shem, one of the sons of Noach lived then. The Torah
refers to him as a "servant of the high G-d." Shem and his descendant Aiver
founded a school for people who flocked there to learn the ways of serving
G-d, among them Avraham's son and grandson. Why then, asks the Chofetz
Chaim, did none of them establish a family or a nation the way Avraham did?
The Chofetz Chaim distinguishes the key difference. Avraham's sole desire
was to bring about awareness of G-d into the world. Avraham rebuked kings
for the dishonesty of his subjects. "And he called in the name of G-d", is a
commonly found phrase regarding Avraham. Avraham was G-d's public relations
man, and he was completely given over to the ad campaign for his entire
life. The others were faithful servants of G-d, but their efforts were
concentrated on their personal service of G-d.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler explains the differences between Avraham and Noach.
The Torah writes that Noach walked with G-d. Rashi quotes that Noach needed
a help to support him. Noach walked with G-d. He lived with the awareness of
G-d constantly. His awareness and resulting closeness to G-d preserved him
in his righteousness. However, Noach needed the extrinsic stimulus of G-d's
awareness to strengthen him. Noach cared for the animals in the ark, feeding
them at all hours around the clock. He spent an entire year doing so. It is
impossible to voluntarily do such work without love and compassion for the
animals. However, his motivation was to give the animals their needs. The
extrinsic motivator of the needs of the animals moved Noach to feed and care
for them. No doubt Noach was an elevated person, but this is not the
character trait of Avraham; the trait of kindness.
About Avraham the Torah states that he walked before G-d. this means that
his motivation was intrinsic. His essence was simply to perform deeds of
kindness. Avraham's whole person was to be a "giver". When most people give
time or money to a cause or an individual, it's often because it hurts them
to see the needs of the receiver. Giving takes away that pain. Sympathy and
empathy are elevated levels, but they still fall short of the level of
Avraham who gave with no further expectation of receiving in return; even
easing his pain over the needs of his fellow.
Avraham's efforts on behalf of mankind extended themselves to his children.
He put great effort into raising his children to join "the family business."
He was an exemplary model to follow, and his children accepted the
responsibility to plant the seeds of belief and faith in G-d.
Rabbi Dessler concludes that every Jew has sparks of his forefather Avraham
in him. It is possible for these sparks to ignite a fire of kindness which
can counteract selfishness, hatred, and greed. May we all merit to be
recognized as part of Avraham's family, by maintaining our connection with
him through our deeds of kindness.
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.