When was the last time you really questioned where are you letting your life take you?
I think it was while I was separating the colored and white wash. Does a white shirt with black embroidering really go with the white? Shall I start a new political movement to defend my right to determine this for myself?
In an (even) more serious vein, I found myself thinking about something that one of the great philosophers said, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. It sounds good. Yes. Don’t just get on the first bus that you see. Notice where it is heading. The problem is, once you examine your life, how do you determine if its direction is taking you where you want to go? Not all good decisions are equal. Some get you closer to being the person you want to be, and some leave you where you are. It’s easy to look at the Greats and to see the turning points in their lives. Think about Rivka at the well, Avraham in Ur Kasdim, Moshe at the burning bush. Now go back to me on the laundry porch. See the problem? It’s sometimes very informative to look at the Almost Greats and to observe the way they responded to more mediocre choices.
Avraham’s response to the command to do bris milah was completely predictable. His love for Hashem and his desire to live on His terms was, at that point, no surprise. He didn’t live in a bubble. In addition to the thousands of students who were attracted to both Avraham and Sarah, he had made alliances with three notable Canaanites, Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Avraham told them about Hashem’s command. There was no question as to whether Avraham would obey Hashem’s explicit command. Of course he would. His only question is whether or not to do this in a way that the rest of the world is aware, or perhaps it should be done privately because the rest of the world would relate to circumcision as being a bizarre act of self-mutilation (can you imagine how CNN would report it?)
The three all recognized that there was far more to this question than meets the eye. Once Avraham is circumcised, he is no longer like anyone else in the world. There is a sign on his body that will stay with him the rest of his life. It is distinct, real, and one that separates. Aner and Eshkol wanted this to be private. They were resentful of the idea of someone being defined as different and more connected in any way to Hashem. They thought being equal means being identical. Does it? Let us first examine by looking at the world through their eyes.
Have you ever heard anti-Semetic remarks in which the main attack is that we claim to be different? That we see ourselves as being somehow elite?
Do they question whether this means that they are less if we are more? Do they question the direction their lives are taking? Do they question who we are and why?
We have been the voice that the world hears for centuries. All the great spiritual traditions are touched by us. Materially we tend to prosper wherever we land. When we are accused of having economic power, political power and a strong presence in the media is this all a lie? It is not. The question is where does that put us, and where does that put them? If they don’t ask this question then the result of our being different can cause deep resentment. Aner and Eshkol advised Avraham to keep his relationship to Hashem private.
Mamre understood that this was indeed a parting of their ways, but he didn’t see this as tragic, or indicative of the need to be defensive. He told Avraham to do it publicly, in the middle of the day, and to take the place that Hashem has designed for him. The world is a mosaic of peoples each one having a space that no other nation can replace. In the highest and most honest sense that means that being unique is the ultimate testimony to believing in equality. It is a statement that means you can be you, and I can be me. Hashem’s world is great enough to accommodate everyone, and for everyone to attain their level of genuine perfection as they are.
Three days later, Avraham was sitting in the doorway of his tent, hoping against hope that even though the weather was terribly hot, someone might still be heading towards his open door . Like circumcision, hospitality is very “real world”. Avraham wasn’t only meditating or studying as he sat by the door. He was waiting to serve people in the same way that Hashem does, with actual food and drink. The message of the negation of self and of ego that doing the bris at his age, publicly, was not lost on him. He is meant to bring Hashem down to this world. His body echoes Hashem’s presence. His conscious decision to follow Hashem, the host of all the world, by being hospitable was a logical outcome.
Back to checking out where your life is going. Whatever else you are, you are Avraham's descendant. You have his blood in your veins. You have to take the bus that will bring you to where you want to be in your unique way. Your destiny is to serve Hashem
With your heart
WIth your soul
With your resources.
Like all of your fellow members of The Tribe.