What Did Abraham Teach?
According to ancient Jewish tradition we are taught by the sages that Abraham came to the knowledge of the One True G-d at the age of 3. He was born and raised in a society full of idol worship and his father was an idol maker. On down the road we are told that he smashed his father’s idols before leaving town so to speak and he made many souls when he led others out of idolatry.
We learn about the walk that Abraham had with G-d, he became known as G-d’s friend; and when it came time for G-d to bring justice on a wicked city, G-d asked the question, “Should I conceal from Abraham what I do…?”
Within the following passages of this conversation, G-d tells us what Abraham taught.
“And HaShem said, “Shall I conceal from Abraham what I do, now that Abraham is surely to become a great nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing righteousness/charity and justice…”
Within this passage G-d Himself tells us what His ways are; and as we will see this has never changed.
Our first clue is found in the word, ‘command’, but the original Hebrew denotes more than just a command. The word, command has a harsh tone to it and that is why it is best to go back to the original language.
I will transliterate the Hebrew to the best of my ability according to the dialect that my teacher taught me Hebrew.
The word translated as, command, is, ‘ya-tza-veh’, it is a root word for mitzvah which too is translated as command but in truth it denotes, deeds.
The way of G-d in the Hebrew is, “Derek Hashem” or Path of G-d
This is further understood by looking at the rest of the passage.
The way/path of G-d is by, doing righteousness and justice.
By reading this in the English one really has no clue to what constitutes, righteousness or justice as per this passage tells us that it is something we do.
Righteousness, some translations use the word, charity but this is not a clear word to use as well. The word, righteousness here is, tzedakah. Tzedakah means righteous giving. How is this different from charity? Charity denotes, taking something that belongs to you and give it to those who may be in need; whereas, tzedakah is taking that which belongs to G-d and putting it in its proper place.
Justice in the Hebrew is, mishpot; mishpot is the laws that are incumbent upon everyone.
The laws that everyone was to follow were what is called today as the Noahide Laws. These laws were passed down from Adam to Noah and the last one was given to Noah as he came out of the ark. And it was than in the vein of eating meat one is not allowed to eat meat torn from a living animal. This instills laws against animal abuse. There are seven laws altogether.
THE 7 LAWS
- Belief in one G-d
Acknowledge that there is only one G-d who is Infinite and Supreme above all things. Do not replace that Supreme Being with finite idols, be it yourself, or other beings. This command includes such acts as prayer, study and meditation.
- Do not blasphemy
Respect the Creator. As frustrated and angry as you may be, do not vent it by cursing your Maker.
- Do not murder
Respect human life. Every human being is an entire world. To save a life is to save that entire world. To destroy a life is to destroy an entire world. To help others live is a corollary of this principle.
- Incestuous and adulterous relations are forbidden.
Respect the institution of marriage. Marriage is a most Divine act. The marriage of a man and a woman is a reflection of the oneness of G-d and His creation. Disloyalty in marriage is an assault on that oneness.
- Do commit any theft.
Respect the rights and property of others. Be honest in all your business dealings. By relying on G-d rather than on our own conniving, we express our trust in Him as the Provider of Life.
- Do not eat a limb torn from a living animal.
Respect G-d’s creatures. At first, Man was forbidden to consume meat. After the Great Flood, he was permitted – but with a warning: Do not cause unnecessary suffering to any creature.
- Set up courts of justice.
Maintain justice. Justice is G-d’s business, but we are given the charge to lay down necessary laws and enforce them whenever we can. When we right the wrongs of society, we are acting as partners in the act of sustaining the creation.
These laws today are incumbent upon all humans. The Jews have additional laws that pertain to their covenant with G-d as being a separate nation of priest.
This is what Abraham taught his children and household.
This is the path/way of G-d to be active in righteous giving and living within the seven laws given to all mankind.
We are told in verse 19 that G-d loved Abraham because he taught his children and household to do these deeds as a way of life.
By taking on these deeds, tzedakah and mishpot we too will inact the love of G-d toward us as well.
In my next blog I will teach on, what if you are away from G-d and how you can return to Him per His words that will link you back to this teaching.
Terry W. Hayes
Artscroll Tanach series, Bereishis
HaShem- Hebrew for, The Name, referring to the four letter Holy Name of G-d, Y – H –V – H, it is used so that the violation of using His name in a vain way is illuminated.