Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A d'rash you won't hear me give at shul

From the Book of Bereishit (Genesis):

Chapter 15:
1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
2 And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eli-e'zer of Damascus?
3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

Now Mis-Nagid might be able to tell us whether J,P, E, or D wrote this part, unfortunately, I dropped out of Hebrew School before they taught us how to seperate the sources in Biblical texts. But I want to focus on the story itself, because it reveals something about God that bothers me, and is part of the reason I don't find solace in worshipping Him (or Her or It).

Notice that all Abraham (er, Abram) asked for was a child. Quite understandably, he wanted an heir who would be able to provide for him in his old age.

What does God offer? Not just an heir, but that Abraham's descendants will be innumerable as the stars in the sky.

Now I could see that God, who is at this point frustrated becuase most people worship idols, wouldn't mind having a large number of Abraham's descendants who worship God, but I can't see what value it is to Abraham to know that he will be the progenitor of a "great nation." God is acting like the husband who gives his wife a set of power tools for her birthday when what she really wants is a diamond necklace.

This theme runs through the Torah. God "gives" the Israelites stuff that, when you think of it, benefits mainly God. Even the redemption from Egypt was done mainly to show Pharoah that God was Boss.

So why do would anyone want to worship God, assuming that He exists? All He does is "give" us things that He wants anyway.

(As an aside, note the translation from the King James version, reporduced here (to avoid copyright violations). The translation says that God promises that Abraham's heir will come from his "bowels." Either the word "bowels" had a slightly different meaning in the 17th century, or someone has been bowdlerizing the text.)


Blogger Mis-nagid said...

I wrote one little series on Noach that included a bit on the DH, and suddenly I'm an authority? :-)

9:59 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

Hey, you gotta get your thrills wherever you can find them...

Besides, it was more than "a bit," you divided up the whole story into the sources.

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