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Building a Relationship: Abraham and God – Parashat Lech Lecha

Rabbi Arie Hasit
| 25/10/2023

(This article was written and filmed prior to October 7, 2023 when war broke out on Israel.)

Lech Lecha: An amazing parasha where it feels like we meet Abraham for the first time. Although in fact, the astute reader and listener will notice that Abraham appeared ever so slightly at the end of the Torah reading for Noach. In the strangest story in which he is already leaving his hometown together with his father and they are going from Ur Kasdim (Ur of the Chaldees) to Haran.

Then Lech Lecha begins and tells us that God told Abraham, “Go from your father’s house and from your homeland.” This is a strange, strange situation. How could Abraham be getting this from God if his pagan father had already moved them along?

Our midrash teaches us that Abraham, in fact, looked up in the world and saw that it could not be that idolatry was the way that ran the world and understood that there must be one god. They likened Abraham to someone who sees a palace alit – perhaps in flames perhaps in light – and says, “Is there not someone taking care of this palace?” The landlord, the palace owner comes out and says, “Here I am.”

So it is in the relationship between Abraham and God.

Maimonides tells us this is a rationalistic story. It proves that Abraham did not need to hear anything that Abraham could intuit and understand the way world works and God’s role in this world and that Abraham understood that there is only one god.

A later philosopher Hasdai Crescas takes issue with this rationalism of Maimonides and tells us in his book, ‘The Light of God,’ that in fact when Abraham tells us there is a God, God’s light emanates on Abraham and says, “Here I am.”

I want to suggest from this reading of Crescas that something else is happening when God and Abraham have this interaction. When God sends God’s light to Abraham and Abraham feels it, they interact and this “Here I Am” and this “Go forth” is a way of God and Abraham to establish the importance of relationship.

This is the backbone of all of Judaism. Of course, the person whose job it is to spread the word of ethical monotheism and Judaism to the world is somebody who understands, not just the power of relationship but that it is the very life and breath of who we are.

Abraham understands how important the relationship is and it is through developing relationships with people that he is able to spread his revolutionary idea and bring God to our world.
It is in this moment that we understand is that Judaism is not about one person and God. Judaism is about the relationships that we build with one another.

Shavua Tov from Schechter

Rabbi Arie Hasit, Associate Dean, Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, was ordained by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in 2016 and was in the second cohort of the Mishlei program. Prior, he served six years as the founding rabbi and CEO of 70 Faces — Mazkeret Batya, a unique community that promotes the values of Masorti Judaism and religious pluralism in the public sphere.

Rabbi Hasit volunteers as co-chair of the Masorti Movement’s Youth Committee and as a member of the Law Committee for the Israeli Rabbinical Assembly.

He lives in Mazkeret Batya with his wife, Sara Tova Brody and their two children.

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