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University of Colorado Boulder Program in Jewish Studies

A Shabbat Nugget: Lech Lecha

Boulder County Center for JudaismThis week’s Torah portion begins with G-d telling Abraham to leave his father’s home and travel to Israel.  The Midrash gives the following comment on this verse:

“This is compared to someone who was traveling and sees a palace burning and he wonders, ‘is this palace ownerless?’ Then the owner comes to the person and tells him: ‘I am the owner'”.

The implication of this Midrash is that Abraham was wondering,”Does this world have an owner?” and then G-d came and spoke to Abraham and let him know that he is the owner of our world.

However, this is most puzzling. The Talmud teaches that Abraham come to the realization that there is one G-d through intellectual contemplation.  He was so sure of his decision that he started teaching monotheism to others.  So how can it be that Abraham questioned the existence of G-d?

The commentaries explain that Abraham saw that there was a lot of evil in the world and that the wicked people were successful and prosperous.  He therefore wondered perhaps G-d became so disgusted with the world that he withdrew his providence from the world.  Just as a person who owns a house which is burning out of control might give up and abandon the house.

Then G-d appeared to him and told him that “I am the owner of the world.”  Even if the wicked are successful and prosperous, ultimately judgement will be meted out.  The reason G-d allows evil to be successful is because this was the divine plan of the world: that evil should exist, yet we should rise above it and ultimately abolish it.

Shabbat Shalom!

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Prep

About Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner is the Rabbi of Boulder County Center for Judaism. In addition, he teaches extensively throughout Boulder County and is the author of "Finding the Joy in Everyday Living," a book of short chapters explaining the ways to access happiness through appreciation, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

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