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Knowing and Caring
by Dr. Arnie Gotfryd

I have done whatever I can; from now on, you must do whatever you can. May it be G-d's will that there will be one, two, or three among you who will appreciate what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, and may you actually be successful and bring about the true and complete redemption. - The Rebbe, 28 Nisan, 5751.

Abraham Principle - Part 9

Go out on the street and ask your average Joe, "What's your opinion about ignorance and apathy?" And your average answer? "I don't know and I don't care."

Knowing and Caring

To know and to care. That was the life of Abraham.

Discovering ultimate reality was his driving passion; he stopped at nothing short of absolute truth. But as perfectly noble as that is, it was not good enough. Abraham wanted to share - with everyone.

His goal - the whole world knowing and celebrating one G-d. His problem - Most people just weren't interested. Are things any different today?

Go out on the street and ask your average Josephine, "What's your opinion about ignorance and apathy?" And your average answer? "I don't know and I don't care."

Abraham was ultimately successful re-engineering the public mind, but even his successes may have felt a little hollow, because after all, where was G-d in this whole picture? True, He was the ultimate reality of everything, making nature tick and all. But he remained unheard and unseen, theoretical.

Why didn't He reveal Himself? If the purpose was to be discovered, and we discover Him, and even share that discovery, then what? Shouldn't He come out of hiding and say Voila! Here I am!?

In a way, that is what happened. But just in a way. The Midrash relates the story of the Divine response to Abraham's quest with the following parable:

"And G-d said to Abraham: 'Go from your land, your birthplace, and your father's house...'" (Genesis12:2) -- To what may this be compared? To a man who was traveling from place to place when he saw a palace in flames. He wondered: "Is it possible that the palace has no owner?" The owner of the palace looked out and said, "I am the owner of the palace." So Abraham our father said, "Is it possible that the world lacks a ruler?" G-d looked out and said to him, "I am the ruler, the Sovereign of the universe."

Abraham's bewilderment is clear. This sensitive human being gazes at a brilliantly structured universe, a splendid piece of art. He is overwhelmed by the grandeur of a sunset and by the miracle of childbirth; he marvels at the roaring ocean waves and at the silent, steady beat of the human heart. The world is indeed a palace.

But the palace is in flames. The world is full of bloodshed, injustice and strife. Thugs, abusers, rapists, kidnappers and killers are continuously demolishing the palace, turning our world into an ugly tragic battlefield of untold pain and horror.

What happened to the owner of the palace? Abraham cries. Why does G-d allow man to destroy His world? Why does He permit such a beautiful palace to go up in flames? Could G-d have made a world only to abandon it? Would anyone build a palace and then desert it?

The Midrash records G-d's reply: "The owner of the palace looked out and said: 'I am the owner of the palace.' G-d looked out and said to Abraham: 'I am the ruler, the Sovereign of the universe.'"

What is the meaning of G-d's response?

Note that the owner of the palace does not make an attempt to get out of the burning building or to extinguish the flames. He is merely stating that He is the owner of the palace that is going up in smoke. It is as if, instead of racing out, the owner were calling for help. G-d made the palace, man set it on fire, and only man can put out the flames. Abraham asks G-d, "Where are you?" G-d replies, "I am here, where are you?" Man asks G-d, "Why did You abandon the world?" G-d asks man, "Why did you abandon Me?"

Thus began the revolution of Judaism --- humanity's courageous venture to extinguish the flames of immorality and bloodshed and restore the world to the harmonious and sacred palace it was intended to be. Abraham's encounter with G-d in the presence of a burning palace gave birth to the mission statement of Judaism - to negate evil and assert good, making the palace fit for a King, and all his subjects, too.

(Ref's: Midrash Rabbah Bereishit 39:1; based on an interpretation by R' Jonathan Sacks in Radical Then, Radical Now, Harper Collins, 2000, and the linked article citing it by R' Yossi Jacobson on

To read previous installments and other Torah and Science related articles, or to comment, or to contact the author, visit



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