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Lech lecha

11/06/2019 01:10:53 PM


Rabbi Brent Spodek

The patriarch Abraham is well into his 90s when the Holy One tells him that he will have a son in this weeks parsha, Lech Lecha. Not only that, this son will inherit his property and his descendants will be more numerous than the stars of the sky. 

Abe has his doubts – “shall a child be born to a man 100 years old?” he asks. Yet the Holy One insists that Abraham will have a child with his wife Sarah, and after that, the Torah reads וְהֶאֱמִן בַּיהוָה; וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לּוֹ צְדָקָה. “Abraham had faith in the Holy One and righteousness was credited to him.” (15:6)

Rashi, the most important of the Jewish commentators, understands this to mean that Abraham was considered righteous because he trusted and did not ask the Holy One for a sign for reassurance.

Faith here is not what faith often seems to mean today – a blind obedience, a stifling of critical inquiry, a rejection of doubt. Abraham’s faith did not deny the doubts that emerged from the common-sense reasoning of his own mind – 90 year old people don’t usually have children! 

Abraham had his doubts and made them clear to the Holy One. But even – perhaps particularly -- from a place of doubt, he trusted. 

Faith is a willingness to trust, despite one’s doubts and through one’s tensions. Faith is hope.

This is not the faith of children, who lovingly, alarmingly believe that their parents have the magical power to simply make everything better. Abraham’s faith is an adult faith, a faith that knows that pain is real and suffering is possible and with that knowledge, trusts that it is possible to draw close to the creator of the world. 

Adult religion does not demand that we give up our ability to think critically about the world but rather to trust that from that place of uncertainty and fear, connection and even holiness is possible. 

We are descendants of Abraham, who brought his critical thinking to his trust in his relationship with the creator of the universe. May we, too, be blessed to hold hope and doubt together. May we be blessed with Faith. 

Mon, July 6 2020 14 Tammuz 5780