Note to readers: Yes I know this is very late, but there’s been a lot of stress on my time to work on Shlomo’s Drash. This and Vayera will be late of course, and hopefully I’ll pick up with Haye Sara by Thursday.
This week we read:
1. And the Lord had said to Abram, Get out from your country, and from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you;
2. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing;
3. And I will bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you; and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.[Genesis 12]
It has been said so many times it almost sounds trite. What an incredible thing is was for Abram to leave virtually everything behind and go somewhere completely foreign, unknown and dangerous. Lately I’ve had a lot to think about in that realm, the latest only minutes before I started to write this. I watched the Ares I- X launch from Kennedy Space Center via the Internet. It is far from clear if the Ares I and V rockets and their respective manned spacecraft will ever be developed. Many believe it a big waste of money that could be better spent here on Earth. When discussing the return on investment what can be developed in space often takes center stage in arguments, which is often lacking. Is it enough to invest in such a program? Should we go to the moon again, the ultimate goal of building these rockets?
4. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy five years old when he departed from Haran.
5. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the souls that they had made in Haran; and they went forth to go to the land of Canaan; and to the land of Canaan they came.[Genesis 9]
Yet what Abraham is doing is not for profit, it’s more for prophet. There are many Midrashim about Abraham leaving his home, the one most known is the one about him smashing the Idols. While many think of a precocious teen, reading the the entire passage in GenesisRabbah gives a different view — he may have been already in his seventies. Yet another Midrash is more significance, commenting on the odd phrase ” the souls that they made in Haran,” since no one but God can make a soul.
It refers, however, to the proselytes [which they had made]. Then let it say, ‘ That they had converted ‘; why THAT THEY HAD MADE? That is to teach you that he who brings a Gentile near [to God] is as though he created him. Now let it say, ‘ That he had made ‘; why THAT THEY HAD MADE? Said R.Hunia: Abraham converted the men and Sarah the women.3
The souls made were men and women who were inspired by Abram and Sari’s vision of monotheism.Midrash can only infer such things, it is not written in the biblical text. We can only guess the thoughts of Abram at that time. I can only guess what many people thought of the Apollo moon missions, based on my own experience. I was four years old when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, but by any measure, it completely blew me away, evidenced by the large number of space toys in my room, including my G.I. Joe astronaut, the play rocket ship and my spacesuit helmet. It made a little kid dream Kids older than me could dream too, and I suspect some of them transformed our world, founding such companies as Microsoft and Apple, inventing technology Apollo 11 mission control could not conceive of. . I have no measures, but I have the feeling that the moonshots inspired many young boys and girls to study science and technology, to be one of those people up there in space. Inspiration is far underrated, since where inspiration takes us is immeasurable.
Before Space entered our imaginations, it was the Sea. While the profit margin and prestige to get to the Far East was high, the adventure of getting there was a large part of the battle. Explorers likeDiaz and De Gama made incredible trips to find routes there. There was danger, there was the unknown. THe ability to have the courage to do something that might end in your death if you failed often accompanied such journey.DeGama’s expedition did find the route to India past Cape point and around the continent of Africa. Two weeks ago, I visited the lighthouse at cape point, in an air conditioned Toyota minivan after a 12-hour business class plane ride in a Boeing 747 from London. It was nothing like the risk early explorers took. there is very little on the planet which has not been discovered and explored to the point of being safe for tourism.Apollo 1, and the two shuttle disasters underline the danger in exploring space. It is dangerous and that makes it inspiring in ways other things do not.
Abram and Sarai inspired people to think their way according to the Midrash, as they inspire us today. Three faiths trace themselves to this man and his family walking across a dangerous, inhospitable desert to somewhere he has never seen. Space exploration, and the voyages of sea explorers did the same thing once. Sadly, we have lost our sense of awe, our sense of inspiration of entering the unknown. Hebrew uses the same word for fear and awe. We all too often fear and cower from the unknown, instead of feel awe and charge forward. I don’t know if we as a people get the WOW! we get watching the Ares launch as the awe watching Apollo 11 head to the moon. Abram andSarai’s story is often made literal and trite, the merits lost in the modern criticism for what he did wrong to his family.
I think of wonder and inspiration these days as I’m in such unknown territory myself. Sweetie, who did leave her home her friends and her family to be with me is probably experiencing it to an even greater extent. We both are in in the unknown, the scariest yet most common “lechlecha ” — the one of relationships. The danger of breaking up is always there, as we see in the world around us. Relationships may be the ultimate unknown territory. Abram certainly had his problems, but he did undertake the venture of going to a place God would show him. He was inspiring to anyone trying to do something new, unknown and dangerous.
How many of us do that on a regular basis? How many of us are inspirational to others in our courage to do the unknown and possibly dangerous thing?