“The greatest among the giants,” this is how the sages referred to Abraham. Why did they refer to him this way? What did Abraham discover that others did not? This post is about the biblical Abraham, who deciphered the code of nature.
Animals do not ask questions. They follow instincts. The more man evolved and reached beyond the animal kingdom, the more he began to ask questions about the essence of existence. “What is my life about?” “What governs me?” “Is suffering the result of punishment, and joy the result of reward?” And most importantly, “What is the meaning of life?” “What am I living for?”
These questions engendered faiths. People bowed to the forces of nature, prayed to the wind, to the rain, to the earth, to the sun, the moon, and the stars. They gave offerings and sacrifices to statues, wore ritual attire, tattooed their bodies with symbols, danced around fires, and performed all kinds of rites and rituals. They did these things in order to appease the superior forces they believed in, to make the forces that govern them make their lives better, bless them, protect them, give them confidence, and diminish the insecurity and uncertainty about the future.
Abraham was the son of Terah, a statue maker and among the highest ranking priests in ancient Babylon. People would come to Terah for guidance, and he would advise them and sell them statues. Abraham was intended to take over the lucrative family business, but something happened to him.
At some point, after prolonged reflections, he realized that there is no need to bow to nature’s forces. He realized that these forces are themselves “statues,” false perceptions. We should smash them because they are unreal. All our pictures of nature are fundamentally wrong. All that exists is one singular force, and all the forces we perceive are faces of that one force.
What is more, that one force is opposite from our self-centered nature. It is a force of creation, whose quality is unbounded giving. This force has created and governs all of reality, and this is the one we need to relate to in our lives.
Since this force governs everything, and since it is absolute giving, it wants to give us its own quality, to make us similar to itself. To achieve this, it must make us discover it and know its every facet. This is the purpose of our life, the purpose of our existence in this world.
Abraham discovered all this, but he also discovered that man is governed by an inherent quality of reception, the opposite of giving. He discovered that man is born an absolute egoist, as it is written, “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).
This force is omnipresent, but we do not feel it. It is concealed from us because our qualities are opposite from those of the force. It is the foundation of nature, and the more we reveal it, the more we understand and feel what happened before, what is happening now, what will happen in the future, and why.
Abraham discovered that revealing this force depends on the level of people’s warm connections and bonding of the hearts. For this reason, he realized that the quality we need to develop within us is “mercy.” This is why we call Abraham the “man of mercy.”
Abraham explained what he had found to anyone who cared to listen. People who realized that his words were true gathered around him and became a group of students. Maimonides referred to them as “the people of the house of Abraham,” and there were many thousands of them.
Abraham taught his students how to connect to one another with the quality of mercy rather than form egoistic connections, in line with our inherent nature. After Abraham’s passing, his students continued to develop their connections, each time led by different teachers: Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and then Moses. Finally, after overcoming many levels of egoism, Abraham’s group became a nation. This is how the people of Israel came to exist.
However, the people of Israel, true to their original teacher’s legacy, did not strive to keep their knowledge to themselves. On the contrary, they wanted to share their good fortune with all of humanity, to be “a light to the nations.”
Over time, the people of Israel fell from their degree of giving into the same inherent egoism with which everyone is born. They mingled with the nations and strove to be like them, instead of aspiring to lift everyone to a life of giving and connection with the singular force in existence.
Since Abraham’s group fell from their degree and stopped leading toward connection and mercy, humanity has begun to resent them for being selfish. This is the essence behind what we interpret as antisemitism.
Humanity expects the descendants of the students of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, namely the Jews, to keep being givers, to keep the connection with the singular giving force in reality, and to lead the way for all of humanity to reach it, just as the lineage of teachers did for them. This is why when Jews are united and carry out their expected role, the world embraces them, and when they are divided, the world rebukes them.
These days, when there are two great Jewish communities in the world, one in Israel and one in the US, there is an opportunity to rebuild the bonding that made the people of Israel what it is and accomplish our mission in the world. If we revive Abraham’s wisdom among us, we will lead the world to connection, to the end of wars, exploitation and abuse, to the end of misery and loneliness.
In a world that is as connected as ours today, establishing connections on mercy rather than on selfishness is mandatory for maintaining a sustainable society. For this reason, the more we delay our building of a society based on mercy, the more the world will resent us and blame us for its conflicts. No one else has the key to changing human nature except for Abraham’s descendants, and changing human nature has never been as urgent as it is today.
For more on Abraham and Jewish history, read my book 𝑺𝒆𝒍𝒇-𝑰𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒗𝒔. 𝑨𝒍𝒕𝒓𝒖𝒊𝒔𝒎 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑮𝒍𝒐𝒃𝒂𝒍 𝑬𝒓𝒂: 𝑯𝒐𝒘 𝒔𝒐𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒕𝒚 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒏 𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒇-𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒔 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒐 𝒎𝒖𝒕𝒖𝒂𝒍 𝒃𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒕.