The metalworker encourages the goldsmith,
and the one who smooths with the hammer
spurs on the one who strikes the anvil.
One says of the welding, “It is good.”
The other nails down the idol so it will not topple.
“But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend . . . ” — Isaiah 41:7–8
The Torah portion for this week, Lech Lecha, which means “go to yourself.” It is from Genesis 12:1–17:27, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:27–41:16.
The term Hebrew was invented to describe Abraham. In this week’s Torah portion, the term “Abram the Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13) is used for the first time. How did he get that name? The word Hebrew comes from a word that means “side.” The whole world was on one side, while Abraham was on the other. Abraham was a renegade! The whole world believed one thing, and Abraham believed another.
You see, Abraham was born into a society of idol-worship. As a young child, Abraham realized the futility of worshiping wood and stone. After some searching, Abraham found God. Ironically, Abraham’s family owned and ran a successful idol shop. One day, Jewish tradition teaches, Abraham’s father left him in charge of the store for a few hours. Abraham had an idea. He destroyed all of the idols in his father’s shop, except for the biggest one. When his father came back and saw the destruction of his goods he yelled, “Who did this?” Abraham pointed to the big idol and said, “He did it!” Abraham’s father was speechless.
From them on, Abraham continued to teach the world what no one else believed: That there was only one God; that He was loving; and that He wasn’t a manmade thing. Abraham dedicated his life to teaching about God. He set in motion a shift in the human mindset that continued long after his death; one, in fact, that continues to this very day.
In the book of Isaiah, the prophet was addressing the idolatry that was thriving in his day. In the next verse, God referred to the Jews as the “descendants of Abraham.” The fight between Abraham the Hebrew and the idol-worshipers was still being fought in Isaiah’s day. All kinds of craftsmen encouraged each other in their work, which was to produce idols. The prophet was describing a situation where society encouraged idol-worship. Abraham’s descendants, like their patriarch, were alone in worshiping the One true God.
Idols of wood and stone are mostly a thing of the past, but idol-worship still thrives today. Anything that is a substitute for God is an idol. Anything we value more than God is an idol. Anything that dictates our actions, instead of God, is an idol. Money can be an idol. A car can be an idol. Sometimes, we make people into idols. And society still says that it’s ok. The descendants of Abraham still say that it’s not.
Whose side are we on? Do we stand with those who live life for things? Or do we stand together with Abraham — and all his descendants — who live to serve God?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President