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Consistently Inconsistent

11/10/2022 01:51:11 PM

Nov10

A truth about human nature is that we are consistently inconsistent. Who we are today, is not who we were twenty years ago, nor is it who we will be a couple of decades from now. We’ve grown from mistakes, explored new opportunities, tested different hypotheses, and compiled our findings into new courses of action every moment of every day. Certainly, we have preferences and habits, but it is as equally true that our behavior tomorrow can vary from our behavior today, and nobody can really use our past behaviors to guarantee what our future actions might be. This is certainly true for us, and it is true for the biblical character of Abraham as well.

In this week’s portion, we have two different representations of Abraham. At the beginning of Parshat Vayera, Abraham is told about the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham objects to God’s plan. What is remarkable is Abraham’s audacity in continuing to reproach God and asking for a change of plans. Abraham doesn’t sit quietly and acquiesce to God’s plan. Rather, he jumps into action, speaks his mind, and tries mitigating God’s decree. This is categorically inconsistent with the Abraham in the latter part of the portion. When told to sacrifice his beloved son, the older Abraham zealously and eagerly jumps into action without a single word of reluctance or refusal. Where was the Abraham who argued with God? Where is the Abraham who spoke his mind and stood up for what is right?

While the story of the Binding of Isaac is used by the Bible to exemplify Abraham’s loyalty and trust in God, it is interesting that it comes at the end of the story. God tells Abraham that since Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, God now knows that Abraham will do everything he tells him to do. But then the story ends, and God and Abraham don’t talk to one another again. It’s as if God now knows Abraham is a “yes man” and will do whatever is asked. But similarly, perhaps God was also wondering where was the Abraham who argued with God? Where was the Abraham who spoke his mind and stood up for what is right?

It seems that Abraham changed just like every other human. How he acted when he was younger is not the way he acted when he was older; he was inconsistent. But what human isn’t? Yet, I wonder if the person Abraham became is a better version of himself. And thus, I also wonder if the ways we ourselves are changing are ways that are for the better or the worse? We all know we have the capacity to change, but there is no guarantee that we won’t pick up bad behaviors and habits. In such a way, the story of Abraham can perhaps be seen as a cautionary tale. To keep a finger on our pulses and monitor the trajectory of our lives. We must continually try to make all our actions intentional and ensure that who we become is who we want to be. It is true that we will be inconsistent; it is my prayer that this inconsistency will be for a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom

Fri, December 2 2022 8 Kislev 5783