The Greatest Revolutionary
Rabbi Reuven Mann
This week's Parsha introduces us to the most unique individual in history, Avraham Avinu. The progress of mankind has been effectuated by the unique discoveries of special people. It is the nature of society to become entrenched in the established order.
Most people are indoctrinated in the prevailing beliefs of their time and place. There are always great thinkers who are creative and capable of original insights. However, they lack the ability to challenge the underlying framework and fundamental beliefs that everyone takes for granted.
This is not just an intellectual limitation but a moral one, as well. It requires extraordinary courage to refute the basic "truths" that all regard as immutable. To do this requires prodigious intellectual independence and the ability to endure the ridicule and ostracism of society. Those who engage in this endeavor must also be prepared to face the possibility of death.
Avraham was the greatest revolutionary of all time. His singular achievement is depicted by the Rambam in the first chapter of the "Laws of Idolatry". He was raised to worship idols from an early age. Everyone was steeped in Paganism and there was no clear thinking person who guided Avraham in the true path. He had nothing to rely on except his great mind which was constantly active. He detested falsehood and challenged all the beliefs that he was subjected to. He eschewed any idea that made no sense and eventually came to the realization that the entire religion was baseless, even ridiculous and so he rejected it. He then embarked on a search for the true Deity, the G-D of reality. Avraham studied the Universe for many years and through his sound logical analysis discovered it's Creator. He understood that it was this Being, alone, who man was supposed to recognize and worship.
The Torah endorse's Avraham's religious approach by describing Hashem as the "G-d of Avraham". The first blessing of the "Shmoneh Esrei" addresses Hashem as " G-D of Avraham, G-D of Yitzchak and G-D of Yaakov". However it concludes with the words, "Shield of Avraham".
The question arises, why does the blessing mention only Avraham in the conclusion and not the other Patriarchs who were cited in it's opening? Rabbi Israel Chait explained that it is because of the distinctiveness of Avraham. It is not to say that he was the greatest of the Fathers. However, he was the innovator, the one who had the supreme wisdom and courage to extricate the world from the darkness of idolatry and paganism to the light of genuine knowledge of Hashem. Yitzchak and Yaakov did not have to go through that process but were educated from youth in the true ideas of their father.
Avraham is the "Father" of the Jewish nation. Our identity, is that we are the "Children of Avraham" not necessarily in the biological sense but in the spiritual one, as well. The Rambam taught that every convert can refer to Avraham as his "Father".
The Jewish People is the nation which practices the religion of Avraham. We must be unyielding in our renunciation of any and all forms of idolatry including the superstitious practices and beliefs which undermine our pure and exclusive faith in Hashem.
We must also emulate our Patriarch's aversion to all manifestations of religious falsehood. There are many doctrines propounded today which claim to be valid formulations of Judaism, in all the various denominations, including the Orthodox. We must resist the temptation to be politically correct and endorse faulty Philosophies, simply because they are popular. We must manifest the courage and love of truth which would make us worthy descendants of Avraham Avinu.