What I like about our heroes is that they are not too heroic. To a man and to a woman, they are admirable, even great, but each one with his or her faults. Jacob was a man of vision, but he was also a trickster and spoiled his second youngest son. His mother Rebecca was kind and had a sense of destiny, but she helped Jacob trick his father. Isaac perhaps cared too much for his stomach. Moses, our great leader and teacher, humble, and devoted to his people and to mission, lost his temper more than once. Our greatest, most valiant, poetic and loyal of kings engineered the death of one of his soldiers to gratify his selfish desire. What’s more he showed scant mercy to some of those who made lesser mistakes. Did he have to kill the poor young man who, begged by Saul to put him out of his wounded misery, and so caught in a terrible quandary, after much pleading, gave into the king’s demand? Even Elijah, a prophet so honoured that we pour him a cup of wine every year during the Seder, failed to recognise the true nature of God when Hashem ‘appeared’ not in a a ferocious wind, nor in the earthquake that followed, and nor in the fire that followed this, but, rather, in a still, small voice.
We have not reached any of these figures yet. This week we come to the second of three parashot dedicated to Abraham and Sarah, our first grandfather and grandmother. Like those who will follow, this wonderful couple, combining between them hospitality, wisdom, faith, generosity to strangers and peace making skills, not to mention love of one another, have nonetheless their faults. Abraham foolishly repeats the lie about Sarah being his sister, despite being rebuked for doing it the first time. He fails to protect his son Ishmael from his wife’s jealousy, itself no credit to Sarah. Ah yes, our heroes are not saints. They do not stare out at us, beatifically filled with luminous purity, devoid of all sin or weakness. Their eyes are human and their heart are too. They are not perfect. Which is fine, just perfect.
This week Abraham and Sarah are camped in the Plains of Mamre, waiting for us to arrive at their tent and partake of their hospitality. To lead us there, we have a new Sh’liach Tsibbur, namely Sharim Atilano. Come along this Saturday at 10:30 and lend Sharim your support.