Jewish Thought

Abraham: the Epitome of Reaching Out to One’s Fellow Man

Various Jewish organizations nowadays, utilize a variety of ways to reach out to straying Jews. Some use advocacy, some run conferences, others seminars, some set up booths, some disseminate books of faith, others offer the opportunity to do commandments and so on. It’s OK for each to have his own way, provided that their intentions are for the sake of heaven.

What method was used by the first one to reach out to his fellow man, Abraham, when he tried to convince his fellow man to believe in and serve G-d? The Rishon Lezion Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu (as he writes in his book of sermons “Father of Israel”) found in Maimonides’ writings that in Abraham’s journey to persuade people to believe in G-d, he utilized all the methods that the Jewish outreach movements use today. Or more correct, they use all his methods.

Maimonides describes in The Laws of Idolatry (Chapter One) the father of all believers’ method of operation: “Once he knew [of G-d’s existence], he began teaching the citizens of Ur and reckoned with them. He told them, ‘You are not going on a path of truth’. He broke statues of idols, and began to teaching the people that there is no deity worth serving besides G-d who made the universe. It is only worthwhile to bow down and sacrifice and offer libation to Him, so that future generations would recognize Him. And it is fitting to destroy and break all the images, lest all the people err concerning them, like those people who thought that there is no other G-d besides these images.”

Continuing with Maimonides: “When he overcame them through the strength of his arguments, the king desired to kill him. He was saved through a miracle and left for Charan. He began to gather crowds of people to inform them that there is one G-d in the entire world and it is proper to serve Him. He would call people together in one city after another and one country after another and proclaim his message, until he came to the land of Canaan, as the verse [Genesis 21:33] states: “And He called there in the name of the Lord, the eternal G-d.” What is this if not conferences and outreach rallies?

Further: “When the people would gather around him and ask him about his ideas, he would explain to each one according to their understanding, until they turned to the path of truth. Ultimately, thousands and myriads gathered around him, and these are the men of the house of Abraham. He planted in their hearts this great fundamental principle, and composed texts about it, and taught it to Isaac, his son. Isaac also taught others and brought them to G-d. Isaac taught Jacob and appointed him as a teacher; he taught others and brought those who gathered around him to G-d.” Here we have disseminating Judaism through written media.

We can add that the Chabad method was also one of Abraham’s ways. Their well known method is to connect those distant to Judaism, by getting them to fulfill commandments, like putting on tefillin or taking a lulav. In this way, a Jew is influenced and attains spirituality in a non-confrontational way. Abraham acted in this way, by opening up a tent that offered food, drink and accommodations in Beersheba, and by getting his guests to recite blessings over the food and drink, which brought them to faith in G-d.

Let us take hold of Abraham’s ways to radiate G-d’s name everywhere and bring the world to belief in G-d.

 

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