When Avram returned victorious after battling the kings who had kidnapped his nephew, Lot, he was greeted by Melchizedek, the king of Shalem, who also served as a priest to El Elyon (God Most High). Melchizedek presented Avram with wine and bread and blessed him: “Blessed be Avram of El Elyon. Creator (Koneh) of heaven and earth. And blessed be El Elyon, who has delivered your foes into your hand.” (Genesis 14:19-20)
The word “Koneh” (Kuf Nun Hey) has two likely intertwined meanings: 1. To acquire; 2. To create. In the above verse, which describes God and His relationship to the created world, the latter meaning is obviously preferred. Still, if we take a cue from Rashi, the interrelationship of these two meanings has captured the imagination of traditional readers: “He (God) made (oseh) the heavens and the earth (Psalms 134:3) – by creating them, he acquired them to be His”. Rashi sees the word “oseh – made” as parallel to the word “koneh” but feels compelled to include the second meaning of the word “koneh” in his interpretation.
A 3rd-4th century rabbinic midrash toys with the interrelationship of these two meanings: “From whom did God acquire (koneh) the heavens and the earth?… Said Rabbi Yitzhak: ‘Avram used to invite in wayfarers and would offer them food and drink and would ask them to thank God [after they had finished their meals. They would ask him: What should we say? He replied to them: Praise the God of the world for you have eaten that which is His. [As a result of Avram’s actions,] the Holy One Blessed be He said to Avram: My name was not recognized among My creatures until you caused them to recognize it; therefore, I account you as if you were my partner in creating the world.’” (adapted from Bereishit Rabbah 43:7)
In this midrash, God plays the role of the “unrecognized” Creator of the world who provides His creatures with their needs. God’s creatures, however, are oblivious to the source of the magnanimity from which they partake. It took an individual like Avram to make them cognizant of the source of their blessings. In other words, Avram caused God’s creatures to “acquire -makneh” (derived from the word – “koneh”) knowledge of God. In appreciation for Avram’s actions, God accounts Avram the role of co-creator (again, “koneh”) of the world.
The Jewish tradition bids us to emulate Avram’s behavior. First, we must learn to appreciate and care for the blessings God provides for us and then we must share, through our deeds, this awareness. In doing so, we, too, can share the role of co-creators of God’s world.