Ariel Ben Avraham

Vayeira: Living in the unity of God’s love

We have said that God’s love encompasses everything, including its inherent goodness and also those who emulate His ways and attributes. In this unity there is no concealment from Him: “And the Lord said, ‘Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am doing? And Abraham shall become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the world be blessed in him’.” (Genesis 18:17-18). The unity of the Covenant between the Creator and Abraham is a unity that comprises the Creator, the Torah, the Shabbat, and Israel. 3
“For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Abraham that which He spoke concerning him.” (18:19). Our Sages explain that this principle is juxtaposed to “And the Lord said, ‘Since the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and since their sin has become very grave’.” (18:20) in order to make a clear contrast between what Abraham is and represents, and what the people of those two cities were and represented. Again, we are before the duality of good and evil, right and wrong, true and false, from which we have to choose.

The Torah recreates times and places where peoples and individuals had to make a choice. Free will is the fundamental premise to safeguard moral freedom. It is the starting point of whatever is about to come to us. We have heard that “what starts well ends well”, and “what starts bad ends bad”. It is not necessarily so, because we still can divert from good to bad and from bad to good. However, making positive choices is the beginning in the right direction.

The whole Hebrew Scriptures narrate all kinds of events related entirely to choice, and the whole point of such recurrent situations is to teach us to make the right decisions. In order to do that, our Sages engaged in lengthy discussions to build the ethical foundations of Judaism as the true light for the nations, for the material world. From these ethical principles we learn that negative and destructive choices lead to death in the plain sense of the word. We are dead when we do not live in the positive decisions that we must make.

In their corruption, the generation of the Flood was already dead; and the waters cleaned the world from what was already dead in the eyes of the Creator. The generation of the tower of Babel was nearly dead by attempting to kill the diversity of the human spirit, as one of God’s most precious gifts to us. Reassuring such diversity safeguarded the vibrancy of human life.

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah killed all traits of goodness in their humanness, and were also dead before the Creator. Their destruction was just the means to end the lives of the “living dead”. We have said that we do goodness not only because it is the right and ethical thing to do, but we do it out of love. We do it because we are aware that love is our true essence and identity; therefore, our real reason and motivation is to be good and do goodness. a

Our Sages teach that, while the social pattern of the nations is modeled as a pyramid, Israel’s principles are modeled as a circle. Among the nations, society is based on the levels of who have more and who have less, in relation to their cultural or ideological values. Those levels are determined by possessions, and the capacity to acquire more is proportional to having a higher or lower position in the pyramid. In Judaism, we Jews are all equal in the eyes of God, as parts of the same circle in whose center He sits. In that structure we all belong together in oneness.

In today’s world there is unrest and social turmoil as a result of the nations’ pyramid model. Fundamentalist beliefs promote the destruction of such model and replacing it by another pyramid that denies the basic human rights. On the other hand, those who defend the old pyramid model don’t know how to keep it above the ground.

The solution is to implement the circle model of Judaism. This is not an easy task because, in order to do it the nations must change their values based on their false conception of superior and inferior human beings. As it is said in these times, they need a lot of “soul searching”, and quite a great deal of it. Hence, all this is about coming back to what the soul is as our true essence and identity.

The Torah teaches us clearly that Creation is the result of God’s love, from what we all are made. Love is what we are and must manifest based on our free will, which is also a gift of God’s love. In this awareness we have to approach our Creator and also His Creation. This is the united circle model of Judaism that teaches us to love each other, simply because that is the will of the Creator as He commands us in His Torah (Leviticus 19:18). Humankind needs to be aware of this Truth, so that at last we can create a place for Him in this world to dwell among us.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.