Thursday, December 03, 2009

A savage criticism of Avraham Avinu!

It bothers me when our Avos are criticized this way, and compared unfavorably to others.
Due to our many sins, there are those whose purpose is to wilfully ignore this fire; to extinguish it through neglect and denial of its existence. Unlike the typical resident of Mesopotamia who has simple faith in Baal Peor, trust in the High Priest and the hierodules, respects those who are more devout, knows where the sacrificial pillar and Ashera tree belongs, and adheres to tradition; others are self-conscious and have a quasi inferiority complex about the tenets of their faith. Their intelligentsia swivels behind their tents and ponder questions that gnaw at their minds: Where is the evidence for the supremecy of Baal Peorfor Kemosh smiting the enemies of the Moabites, and Marduk killing Tiamat and forming the world? If the Sun is god, then why does it leave at night? They are particularly troubled by commandments pertaining to child sacrifice and how it comports with the non-Peorian values that they so lovingly embrace. 
We are lucky to have been born into a faith which is true. That way, those who don't sweat the difficult questions and grapple with tough theological issues don't really need to. But on the other hand, there are devout and faithful Christians who don't grapple with these questions, and so too devout Muslims, and Hindus, etc. And if indeed there is Divine judgment for them for not abandoning their false faith, it is because they had opportunity to spot the flaws in their faith, grapple with it, and reach the correct conclusion.

But Avraham Avinu questioned. He arrived at a conclusion of monotheism at the age of 3, and rejected the false polytheism. And Nimrod the faithful was greatly upset at him for not worshiping fire. Was Avraham a member of this intelligentsia? When Avraham was told of the impending destruction of Sodom, he did not meekly accept it. Rather, he argued with Hashem on the Sodomites behalf. He grappled with the question of how, or whether, the Judge of the entire World could not perform mishpat.

As Socrates said, "the unexamined life is not worth living." I don't know whether I would endorse that wholeheartedly. But my sense of it is that living a moral Jewish life as a conclusion of investigation and thought is worth at least as much as the same where one does not think about these things at all, and is more devout because of it.


Not Brisk said...

Happy to see that a cord was struck...

Yosef Greenberg said...


Good point. But I think you're missing the larger context of his post.

You might still disagree (as I assume you would, for ex. re amalek), but this isn't a rebuttal.


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