Opportunities to speak truth to power may approach like an unexpected visitor. Imagine one sunny day you are sitting in your yard, enjoying the shade of a tree. Suddenly you have unexpected seraphic guests heralding the start of adventures in metaphysics. This was Abraham’s story. The first biblical patriarch of the Torah had a surprise visit from three angels and God. Nonetheless, Abraham kept his composure and demonstrated how to share moral outrage with those in power.
At a pivotal moment in the story, demonstrating Abraham’s righteous virtuosity, Abraham challenged God. God had said to God’s self, I’ve heard that the people of Sodom are evil. God was determined to destroy Sodom. Perhaps to test His thesis, God shared this notion with his buddy, Abraham. Stepping into his fullest and most respectable self, Abraham promptly and vociferously protests, “will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?”
With deed and words, Abraham employed the highest level of spiritual intelligence. He was spontaneous in challenging God, addressing God with urgency. Abraham employed his vision of justice and mercy. Accordingly, it was Abraham who proved to be the compassionate one. Moreover, undaunted by the presence of the Omnipotent, Abraham becomes a holy advocate.
Perhaps you have had the experience of knowing a friend is about to make a bad choice. Often, we hesitate to offer moral advice or offer a warning because we don’t want to confront an acquaintance and jeopardize a relationship. Yet, there will be times when life and death hang in the balance, the results of unethical or callous behaviors. In those instances, can we muster the moxie to speak up and challenge those in power?
In formidable times like today, when morality has been set aside in favor of power and greed, we need to be more like Abraham. We should challenge politicians and industrialists who pollute our democracy and corrupt our environment. Our challenges must be offered with urgency and in real-time. After all, lobbying a politician or protesting a company should not be any harder than it was for Abraham to challenge the Holy One who is omnipotent!
Somedays I feel like we are all sitting in our yards under leafy trees, imagining that the bad news will disappear from the newspapers, the earth will heal itself, and the tyrants will retire to a commune. Yet, this damaged world and suffering people need to hear our voices. Let’s be inspired by Abraham. Don’t be afraid to let your moral nature guide you to challenge the world (and even God) to do better. Sweep away your faux innocence or you too are guilty. It just takes a bit of holy moxie and some spiritual intelligence.
Rabbi Evan J. Krame