Sometimes the more normative, run-of-the-mill, “daily miracles” are more significant than super-human feats.
The Torah portion of “Lech Lecha” (Genesis 12:1-17:27), is a United with Israel favorite! That’s because this is the Torah portion where God promises the Land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants (descendants through Isaac, that is!). Yes, it’s official. Israel belongs to the Jews and only the Jews.
Abraham, the first Jew, was put to 10 tests as part of the promise to become the father of monotheism and recipient of the Land of Israel. The first of these tests was the test of “Ur Kasdim”. The test of Ur Kasdim, named after the place Abraham was born, refers to the time when Abraham was thrown into a fire for refusing to participate in the idol worship that was prevalent in his time. Miraculously, he survived.
Abraham realized that idolatry was silly, at best. He didn’t care that idol worship was “the thing to do” or that “everyone is doing it.” He believed that there was one God, and he wasn’t going to budge, even at the threat of being thrown into a fire.
However, the commentaries are troubled by the fact that the test/miracle of Ur Kasdim is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. Most of the other tests of Abraham are explicitly mentioned, but not this one. Why not?
One explanation is that the Torah was silent about this test because it was something that Abraham did out of his own convictions, on his own. God did not command him to risk his life for Him. According to this approach, although certainly commendable, the Torah only recorded the tests that God “personally” gave to Abraham.
Another reason why the episode of Ur Kasdim is not explicitly written is because it was something miraculous, something out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, many people believe that only the big events, the big miracles, that super-human feats, are what’s worthy of mention. What the Torah wants to teach us is that sometimes the more normative, run-of-the-mill, “daily miracles” are what’s important.
That’s why only the more “routine” life events, which were also tests for Abraham, are those that the Torah records. For example, Abraham’s test of being told to leave his native land and head to some new place, was something the Torah wanted to urgently inform us of. In fact, it is the opening episode of this week’s Torah portion. This is because many people might not realize that this was an act of heroism. Although it appears to be part of the daily grind (weren’t you once forced to move as part of your job, or potential job?), it is actually difficult life-changing experience more worthy of mention.
Leaving his birthplace forced Abraham to face many challenges. There was a financial challenge, a social challenge, a family challenge, a religious challenge. Abraham had everything going against him. The message the Torah wants to give us is that a person doesn’t merely earn ‘points’ with God for the “big” stuff, such as the threat of being thrown into a furnace. Every single one of our decisions, even routine ones, that are taken with God and religious considerations in mind, are also worthy of praise.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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