Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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S
t e i n b a c h
— T
h e
B
i b l e
: E
t e r n a l
B
oo k
Rashi presents a startling commentary on the first verse ad-
verted to above: “He (Abraham) was sitting in the tent door.”
Says Rashi,
bikesh laamod
“Abraham wanted to stand up.” “The
Holy One blessed be He said, ‘You sit and I shall stand.’ ”
Abraham, a creature of human imperfection, receives special
tender consideration from God, the Perfect One. So venerable,
according to the Bible, is human worth in His eyes. What a
glorious biblical concept!
Another comment by Rashi is noteworthy. On the phrase
pesach ho’ohel
“In the tent door” he remarks: “To see if there
is a passerby whom he might take into his home.” This exaltation
of man seeking godliness through hospitality to others is a superb
gem in the crown of the Torah. I t reveals a priority of the
humanizing component in Scripture teaching.
A rabbinic observation goes even further. The Midrash
(Genesis Rabbah), commenting on “he lifted up his eyes and
looked, and lo, three men stood over against him,” presents this
rather intriguing interpretation: “He saw the
Shechinah
(Divine
Presence) and the angels.” Here the proffer of assistance to a
fellowman is equated with beholding the
Shechinah.
Dialogue and Dialectic
There is a passage in the Jerusalem Talmud (Ber. IX), “If a
man is in distress let him not call on Michael or Gabriel, but let
him call direct on Me and I will hearken to him straightway.”
This expression of God’s immanence paraphrases Psalm 145:18,
“The Lord is nigh to all who call upon Him, to all who call
upon Him in truth .” There is a wide chasm between man’s
finite “I ” and God’s ineffable “Awnoche,” but the gulf may be
bridged through prayer, communion, worship, meditation and
entreaty. However, the biblical concept of human-divine dialogue
involves a spiritual dimension that transcends the conventional
pattern of seeking God through prayer and communion.
I t
partakes of the nature of an actual visitation.
Buber’s “I־Thou”
philosophy furnishes a strong clue for the understanding of this
concept.
Biblical examples of the human-divine dialogue are legion.
Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah; Moses, after the
golden calf incident, invoking the attribute of mercy God Him-
self had proclaimed in the theophany on Mount Sinai; David’s
apostrophe to the Lord after he had escaped from the hand of
Saul; Isaiah’s overture to God, “Come now and let us reason
together”; Job’s disputation with the Almighty; these were not
casual remarks addressed to an unapproachable potentate en-