“And Abram moved his tent and came an dwelled in the plains of Mamrei
which are in Hebron; and he built there an altar to Adonai.”
In Parashat Lekh Lekha, God picks Abram out of obscurity, sends him on a quest to some unspecified location, and commits to an enduring relationship. Abram (renamed Abraham, later in the parasha, or portion) follows God’s call without question, the first of ten demonstrations of his absolute faith (Pirkei Avot 5:3). And yet…
Lekh Lekha ends with God’s command to Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males in the household as a sign of the brit, or covenant (Gen. 9:9-14). Abraham complies. Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935; a Latvian Talmud prodigy who became the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine during the British Mandate) notes Abraham is hesitant to do so. Abraham fears if he did something to mark himself as different, people would keep their distance and stop coming to him for advice and to learn, because they would fear he would ask them to circumcise themselves (Midrash Rabah Vayera). To Abraham, this contradicts God’s imperative to, “…be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2). Abraham is so concerned, he consults with Mamrei, a neighbor and friend (Midrash Tanchuma Vayeira 3). Mamrei reminds Abraham the human mind cannot fathom God’s wisdom and advises him not to question God’s command.
Rav Kook says Abraham’s fears are realized. People avoid Abraham once Isaac is born; God wants Abraham to focus all his energy in educating Isaac, because it is through Isaac the blessing of the brit will be brought to the world.
Abraham is the archetypic man of faith. But Kook makes clear: faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is the persistence of belief despite the doubt.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom