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Two Minutes of Torah: Vayeira - Taxi for Abraham

Last week I had the privilege of being in Israel serving as an Arzenu delegat to the thirty-seventh World Zionist Congress.  There were many experiences from that time that will stay with me, but one of the highlights was definitely a taxi that I took to Ramat HaSharon.  At the beginning of the journey the driver started talking to me about what I did, and why I was in Israel.  When he found out I was a Reform Rabbi he was fascinated and started talking about Judaism, about Torah, about his family, and all sorts of other subjects.  But chief amongst them he wanted to tell me about Avraham Avinu - Abraham our father and the wonderful Midrashim that he had heard recently on the radio in Israel about Abraham and why he was chosen by God to be the founder of the Jewish people to be a great nation to be the blessing through which all the families of the shall be blessed.  

These Midrashim offer explanations for why God chose Abraham suggesting that Abraham, after worshiping the sun and the moon, realized that there must be one true God that he was supposed to worship and they go into more details about the reason for Abraham's choice.  

In many ways the reason that these Midrashim exist is because the Torah does not tell us anything about why God chose Abraham.  Two weeks ago when we first met Abraham all we knew was that he was married to Sarah and that they didn't have any children.  Last week the story was not filled out particularly in why he was the one to be chosen.  But this week in our Torah portion perhaps we finally get the beginnings of an answer. 

As Abraham is recovering from the surgery of Brit Milah of circumcision, he sees three men approaching his tent, and he rushes out to meet them.  Ever the hospitable host maybe one of the reasons why God chose him is the way he rushed to greet the stranger.  But then later on in the story we read that Adonai said: "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham is to become a great and populous nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him?"  And then we find out the God intends to destroy the cities of Saddam and Gomorrah.  

Hearing these words, Abraham, rather than accepting God's decree, says: "Maybe there will be fifty righteous people in the city".  And then he proceeds to negotiate with God; suggesting first fifty, then forty five, then forty, then thirty, and then twenty, until eventually settling on ten.  Evidently those ten people could not be found, but we see in this moment that Abraham is someone who is willing to stand up to God, to challenge God, and to question God if it means protecting other people and protecting the world.  

Perhaps this is what God was looking for when God chose Abraham.  God wanted someone to be a partner, but someone that would also challenge God.  We might think back to the story of Adam and Eve when Eve was created so that she could be an ezer kenegdo - a help and an opposite to Adam; most importantly someone who was different and would challenge him.  Perhaps God knew that God needed someone like this as well, and that this would be the type of person with whom God should enter into a covenant.  And who would be God's chosen person?  Abraham in this week's Torah portion proves how he can be the ezer kenegdo, the one challenging God for the good of the world and humanity.  

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Rabbi Danny
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