Off the Pulpit

Recognizing God

How did Abraham first come to God? The Torah does not say, although the Rabbis offer stories to explain.

One imagines that Abraham was like a man who spots a palace in flames. He cries out, “Is no one responsible for this palace?” From an upper window the owner peeks through to declare he is responsible. The palace has an owner.

Similarly, Abraham, seeing the world in flames, cried out “Is no one responsible for this world?” God came to Abraham in response to his cry.

The twist to this midrash is that the word for “in flames” is doleket. Doleket can also mean full of light. Perhaps Abraham saw the world as a blazing fire, or as a brilliant light; as a cauldron of injustice, or as a palette of beauty. Did he think so terrible a world must have a caretaker — or so magnificent a world must have a creator?

Do we come to God from tragedy or from joy? When we see the injustice and pain of the world or when we see its beauty and majesty? The midrash suggests that we do both.

As did our ancestor Abraham.