Friday, February 22, 2008

Avraham and His Elderly Guest

A story is told in the Midrash, which is the narrative portion of the Talmud about Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people. Avraham was famous for welcoming guests with a lavish repast. It was an opportunity to proselytize belief in and service to one G-d. His wealth and hospitality rendered his presentation of G-d's teachings most attractive.
Typically, at the end of a generous meal, Avraham's guests would ask what the price of the meal was. Avraham would offer them the choice of thanking G-d in prayer or paying a hefty sum. Most often , they would conclude the meal with a prayer.
One day, an old man came, who not only refused to thank G-d, but insisted on sitting at Avraham's table and praying to his personal idol.
Avraham got very angry and chased the old man away.
G-d in turn admonished Avraham. "I have tolerated that old man for all of his ninety years, and you chased him away after two hours at your table. Why???"
The story does not put idolatry and monotheism on the same plane of truth. It places idolatry firmly in the camp of falsehood. What is critical is that it presents G-d's patience with the errant idolator as worthy of emulation by believers.
In todays world the bare fisted intolerance of Muslim fanatics blights our world. Secular humanism exercises a stranglehold on public education and tax dollars collected from the public for education. The Torah speaks forcefully about putting out the message of G-d's plan for our world. It speaks out equally about the need for the patience and tolerance necesary to transform the inner man, in order that he should be impelled and not compelled to do G-d's bidding. Sphere: Related Content

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