My Judaism – Abraham was Trouble
When people tell me that religion is a tool of obedience and oppression, I just sort of chuckle to myself.
I mean, sure, it gets used as one, but the people saying this are usually the sorts of people that think religion begins and ends with Christianity, and I’ve already hinted at my problems with their philosophy. Instead of going into depth on that, though, I thought I’d look at the beginnings of the Abramic faiths and the patriarch of all of them: Abraham, who was Trouble.
Abraham’s father, Nahor, was a god maker – he made clay idols and sold them to people. If you needed a god, you’d go and chat with Nahor in his shop and he’d do a little bit of crafting, toss the god in a kiln, and you’d come and pick it up in a week or so. He also had a storefront, so if you didn’t need a custom god you could just buy one of the ready-made ones he had lying around and bring it to your home or temple or whatever.
We know he was pretty good at his job because he had a store and was looking at what he’d built like a family business, thinking that his son Abram would inherit it. So he started taking Abram to work with him and teaching the boy the fine art of making a deity. We know Abram wasn’t especially fond of the shop or the work because, well…
One day, Nahor went for lunch and left Abram in charge. Abram smashed all but one of the idols and put a club beside the only intact one and then settled in, wondering when Pokemon Go would be invented or if there was anything to read. All my descendants will be literate, he thought, so they won’t be bored like this.
Nahor came back from lunch to find his stock in ruins and started panicking, thinking something had happened to Abram, but found the boy flipping through a copy of Gilgamesh in the back of the store.
“Abram,” Nahor said, feeling a headache coming on, “What happened?”
“Oh, it was amazing,” Abram lied, pointing at the only non-broken idol while looking directly into his father’s eye. “That god picked up that club and started breaking all the other ones~!”
Nahor took a deep breath.
“Abram, that didn’t happen. The gods don’t move.”
“Oh. Then why do we worship them?”
This is a thing that happened. It’s all there in Genesis. This is the beginning of the Abramic faiths. Nahor kicked his son out of the house and Abram changed his name to Abraham because that –ha- syllable is a big one that changes meanings mightily; in another instance, it’s the difference between a mountain (aharon) and a closet (aron).
I guess laughter is kind of a big deal.
Here’s the thing: the start of our faith is an act of rebellion, a question of tradition and a scoffing at blind faith. Our forefather dared to challenge the gods and found them to be a collection of empty statues that meant nothing but were nonetheless considered important for reasons. That choice echoes down through Jewish thought and action, begging us to consider the world around us and never put life and living things behind assumption and tradition and objects.
Now, it can be argued that some Jewish sects do a better job of this than others, and even some individuals live this ideal more fully, but it’s what we’re all striving for – a truth that enshrines dignity and competence over the blind fellowship so many seem to think is all there is to religion.
And sometimes, that means causing a little bit of trouble.