Abraham and Principles of a ‘Seeker’

Excerpts taken from Rabbi Brad Hirshfield’s book ‘You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right‘.

3 Principles of Seeking

(1) Moving

“Abraham sets out from his home, from everything he knows, when God calls to him and says ‘Go to the land that I will show you‘. Abraham does not know exactly where he is going. That is the first principal of seeking – to get moving, even if you only have a direction, not a destination” (Hirschfield, pg 53)

“Whenever you think you’ve reached the end, there’s always more up ahead. There’s always more meaning and purpose than we can possibly imagine. The Hebrew word for heaven, olam habah, is usually translated as ‘the world to come’, as if heaven is fixed. But it also translates as ‘the world that is coming’ – a moving, dynamic place where we will face a new set of challenges and opportunities” (Hirschfield, pg 54)

(2) Mutuality

“In Abraham’s journey, when God says He plans to destroy Sodom, Abraham asks, “will you sweep away innocent along with guilty?” In essence, Abraham is telling God that if God surrenders a sense of justice and goodness, then God isn’t God” (Hirschfield, pg 54)

“Arguing with God – rejecting God – can be as sacred as accepting God. There are times when not believing in God is as holy as believing in God with all your heart and soul. One of the lessons of the Sodom story is that Abraham, the bible’s first monotheist, is also the bible’s first atheist.” (Hirschfield, pg 55)

“True seeking encourages arguing and fighting; it embraces testing and dispute, but only on the condition that the dignity of both sides is retained. That is mutuality: whoever appears to be less powerful should be encouraged to exert power and should be protected…We have to be very clear about what our obligations are when we get what we want. That’s what it means to be an ethical, powerful person.” (Hirschfield, pg 57)

(3) Mitzvah – Good Deed/Religious Act

“When God calls out to Abraham, Abraham responds with the Hebrew word hineini – ‘Here I am”. This is mitzvah…We need to feel able to be there for the people we love and the things in which we deeply believe, which we hold sacred.” (Hirschfield, pg 58 )

“We always need to be in both positions, demanding the hineini response from ourselves and demanding for ourselves that other say it to us. When it’s either one or the other, we get into ruts. If you’re always giving it, you get burned out and resentful. When you’re always demanding it without giving it, you’re selfish and immature.” (Hirschfield, pg 58 )

“Mitzvah is a crucial principal in the journey of the seeker. When Abraham says ‘Here I am’, he is saying, ‘I am present, I am fully here, how can I help?‘ It doesn’t matter where we apply that in our lives, to our children or to God, as long as we live that way and have that response to the sacred parts of our lives.” (Hirschfield, pg 58-59)

***Just liked the teaching from Rabbi Hirschfield – great insights into the story of Abraham – which Yael had also re-ittirated to me on her blog (a few of these points anyways). But the reason I post it is because there are lessons to be learned from Abraham about being a person of ‘faith’…and what that means.


3 thoughts on “Abraham and Principles of a ‘Seeker’

  1. Interesting thing with moving, IMO, the idea that the destination is not what it’s all about but rather the journey; the realization that Torah ends with us still out of the land, with us still unaware of what living in the land is even all about. And maybe that’s my favorite lesson from Torah, that I can study it without thinking I have to know all its mysteries, that there will always be things unknown waiting to be discovered, that Torah is given with the destination not even in sight to teach me that I don’t need to know that destination. Judaism sees Torah as alive, fluid, active, relevant, moving, requiring action on our part, but not belief, other than perhaps that God is one.

    That is a great point he brings up about Abraham, something that is true for most of the rest of us as well. Some days I have my skepticism as well, but it doesn’t change how I live my life. I know that my skepticism is not a deal breaker, it’s just skepticism and God can handle skepticism. Sometimes God deserves a good dose of skepticism!

    It’s interesting to read Rabbi Hirschfield’s thoughts on Torah and living, another voice speaking the wisdom of Torah. Perhaps I have touched on some of these things in my writings, but it’s always great to get a fresh perspective, to see things from a slightly different angle.

  2. Well, obviously it would appeal to me, I did attend Christian seminary 20 years ago with the thought of going into some type of ministry, but since I was in the wrong religion for me, that didn’t work out. Today the issues are different. I’m raising two teenagers, seminary requires 2 years of college Hebrew plus 5 years at seminary so it’s expensive. I could pay for it, but with kids soon in college, I don’t feel right about taking that money for me. I think I’ll just keep working for rabbis and studying on my own. I’m also looking into studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem perhaps as soon as a year from this summer or at least in a few years. So, that’s where I am today. My friends tell me I should study to become a rabbi but I don’t think it’s going to happen. And I’m finally OK with that. I may never have the title, but there’s nothing keeping me from studying what they study and learning what they have learned.

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