Vort from the Rav: Vayeitzei

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Genesis 28:13

אֱלֹקֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ וֵֽאלֹקֵי יִצְחָק
the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac.

Abraham’s belief in God’s existence solidified when he was forty years of age. Yet God did not reveal Himself to Abraham until He ordered Abraham to enter the land of Canaan, at the age of seventy-five. Imagine the difficulties Abraham faced during that long interim period, as he attempted to defend his newfound faith! His peers surely scoffed at him, derisively inquiring: “Abraham, you say there is a Supreme Being. Have you ever seen Him? Have you ever spoken to Him?”

Abraham searched for God without His help, proving God’s existence through nature. Abraham could neither point to nor display miracles to prove God’s existence. Because none of his contemporaries searched for Him, God was in a sense ownerless, hefker, until Abraham “claimed” Him as his own, in accordance with the applicable laws of finding lost objects as laid out in the second chapter of Bava Metzia.

Upon close examination, the Torah recounts few miracles surrounding the lives of the forefathers. The only truly supernatural occurrence was the birth of Isaac, and this miracle cannot compare, for example, with the drama of the splitting of the Red Sea. Sarah’s miracle was hidden, not as spectacular as the Plagues or the giving of the Torah. Nor were there overt miracles in Isaac’s life or in Jacob’s. To the contrary, Jacob’s life was beset by problems: the hatred of Esau, the machinations of Laban, and the selling of Joseph. Yet, despite the formidable obstacles, our forefathers promulgated God’s Name and fathered the chosen people. Just like Abraham, who experienced no overt miracles to help him in his pursuit, we must also find God through an assiduous search.

It is for this reason that “The God of Abraham…and the God of Isaac” are constructed in the possessive form. This usage suggests that each of our forefathers retained a type of ownership, a kinyan in God, as it were. Although we assert, to God is the earth and its fullness (Ps. 24), man can reciprocally attain ownership rights in God Himself. The Patriarchs attained this ownership through their self-sacrifice, through the difficulties they endured. (Derashot Harav, p. 104)

About Arnold Lustiger

Dr. Arnold Lustiger is a research scientist and has edited multiple volumes of the Rav's Torah, including the recently published Chumash Mesoras HaRav.

One comment

  1. This thought jumps from “the Torah recounts few miracles surrounding the lives of the forefathers” to “Just like Abraham, who experienced no overt miracles to help him in his pursuit”. We do not know which elements of the medrashic Avraham are historical and which aren’t, to say what Avraham’s experience is like. We could say “E-lokei Avraham[-as-described-in-the-text]” referring to the image of Avraham H’ drew for us rather than guessing about the life of the historical Avraham, but that nuance should be made explicit.

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