A glimpse into the future

       Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.                                           

Recently I watched a movie in which a man took 4000 pictures (photos) of the same street scene over a period of 4000 days.  At first I thought that this was strange.  But after reviewing in my mind that particular scene I began to realize that even though the picture was of the same street scene the characters changed because different people walked in front of the camera.

What does this have to do with the future? – A lot!  Year after year we repeat the same mistakes, look for kindness from a caring and loving God, hope that our lives will be less complicated.  We so want peace and justice.  And it seems that the picture remains the same – different characters appear in each snapshot of life, but basically we are the same as our ancestors before us and if we could fast forward we probably would see the same ahead.

Every time we read the Scriptures indicating the beginning of everything, we realize that life can take strange turns and sometimes requires another look so to make sense of it all.

As we read we learn that Abraham is asked to submit to the will of God and present his son Isaac as the ultimate offering of fealty.  Can anyone here imagine answering such a call?  If we know anything about who we are as a people, we surely accept the fact that we bend over backwards to offer our children the best that we can and attempt to shield them from harm and danger.  We are the first to show pictures of our children and grandchildren ad nausea.  Can anyone really believe that we would take our child and kill him or her in the name of God?

Well, neither could Abraham, and for that matter, Sarah – she dies soon after this encounter – not clear in her mind as to what was happening or why or how God, who so lovingly granted her wish for a child, would want to retake that which was given.  So much has been written about this chapter and the opinions vary.  But the one clear message, to me, is that while God may not really require such obedience, it is evident that our mind can suggest ways for us to exonerate ourselves from our misgivings and in so doing cast the burden on our progeny.  We do it all the time – we scapegoat instead of taking responsibility – we blame others for our shortcomings.

Then there is the belief that we learn from this episode that we have a responsibility to a higher calling.  And as we learn from the ancients, we must understand that our conscience should be the deciding factor in our dealings with one another.  We all have the potential to do good which rates higher than the actual deed.

Another part of Genesis relates to the creation of existence as faith would have us believe.  It emphasizes God’s role in history.  It sets forth our views and values on civilization.  It describes God as wholly sufficient, independent of nature – the unchallenged sovereign of the world who is involved in human affairs. He is the God of history and He is the God of creation – the creation of the human spirit. God and the spirit of humanity are woven together to complete the event of creation.

The lesson we learn from the “Beginning” is that we are born with free will, moral responsibility and accountability.  There is no free ride.  If, however, we want to be a partner with God in perfecting that which He put before us, then we need to accept the duty that is incumbent upon us.

On the one hand, we are asked to make sacrifices. On the other, we are asked to take responsibility. They are in fact connected, sometimes being responsible requires sacrifice.  This involves acknowledgement and willingness, admitting that we are who we are and therefore must answer for our actions and be eager to submit to the task of saying we are sorry. 

God does not really want us to complete the deed – just make the attempt.  Maybe then we will not be so hard on ourselves and our supplications and contrition will have meaning for us.

Yes, it is the same picture year after year, but while the scenery does not change, the people in the foreground do – each new generation seeking to find the answer – each generation seeking the understanding of God.

A story I once read described a teacher wishing to instruct a small boy on God’s ability to be everywhere, asked him to show every place that God can be found and he would be rewarded with a penny.  The boy looked at the teacher and suggested that if he would show him a place where God is not his (the teacher’s) reward would be two pennies.

 

Is there a better answer?