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ח”סשת אריו תשרפ
ה”ב
Insights into Torah and Halacha from Rav Ozer Glickman א”טילש
ןנחלא קחצי ונבר תבישיב מ”ר

:טפשמ השעי אל ץראה לכ טפשה ךל הללח עשרכ קידצכ היהו עשר םע קידצ תימהל הזה רבדכ תשעמ ךל הללח
Through the medium of Internet, I have made lots of new acquaintances. You know, rabosai, that our sichos are
distributed by e-mail to hundreds of people around the world. Some of them have begun to respond with comments and
criticisms and occasional praise. I’ve enjoyed hearing from almost all of them. One correspondent sent me a copy of his rav’s
d’rasha which turned out to be in part a word-for-word transcription of something I said this summer. He apparently sent the
sicha to others in the kehilla since I then received a note from the rav himself apologizing for not citing me by name, or at least
by institutional afliation. The rav’s self-deprecating humor was classic: “I guess they knew it was too good to be mine.” I learned
a lesson from the exchange and will take extra care myself to credit others when they impact my own thinking as should we
all.
This week’s mail brought a long message from a distinguished rav outside the New York metropolitan area with
comments and questions related to previous sichos. Included among them was a cri de coeur: “I need your assistance in framing
answers to the questions below raised by a serious ben Torah who grew up in my kehilla and now learns in [a famous American
yeshiva].” What followed are a serious of quotations cut and pasted from e-mails sent by the young man to the rabbi of his
youth.
I smiled when I read them and then quickly felt a tinge of regret. The original e-mails were written, I am certain, with
a sense of crisis and urgency. It wasn’t the avreich’s confusion that amused me, of course. It was simply that I recognized the
words he had typed.
They were all taken from Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great: The Case Against Religion. Rabosai, you look surprised
which in fact surprises me. Of course, I read the book, in fact with great anticipation. It is often more important to read things
that upset you than those that play to your strength. Of course I want to know if there is a major new challenge to my world
view and how I live my life. If we spend our days huddled nervously afraid to think seriously about our commitments, then we
betray a lack of faith in Torah and its Author. And like a handful of other recent works purporting to destroy the foundation of
religion, the book was a big disappointment and hardly a challenge at all.
This week’s parashah receives a major dose of Hitchens’ sarcastic rhetoric. His literal fat reading of the Akeidah is hardly
worth rebuttal. In his take, a vengeful primitive deity requires an unthinkable morally repugnant act from an innocent family.
He ignores the ultimate outcome since it does not advance his thesis. Hitchen’s chosen adjective for religion is aptly applied to
his reading of the parashah: infantile.
There are, however, other points in the book worth discussing, if only that they can help us frame our own approach
through antithesis. Hitchens questions the value of religion and all the meritorious acts of religious people in the name of
religion. Morality, he asserts, can and does exist outside of religion. Since violent and unspeakable acts are performed in the
name of religion as well, why not forego the abuses of religion and pursue moral perfection and justice unintermediated by
theism?
Although Hitchens is disingenuous, to put it politely, the argument is worth considering, not least for its fundamental
error. Hitchens depicts religion as corrupting everything it touches. No good comes from religion, he maintains, at least no
good that might not have been accomplished otherwise. Furthermore, when we do encounter moral behaviour that fows
from theism, it can be demonstrated that theism is not the source of the morality at all but the individual’s innate goodness.
His proof: Martin Luther King, Jr. never called the wrath of heaven down upon those who persecuted him. Had Dr. King been a
true believer and acting on his religion, he would have cast the struggle with racism in more apocalyptic language promising
Divine retribution in this world or the next. In other words, Hitchens imposes his literal understanding on what it means to be
a religious person and therefore excludes Dr. King from the company of true Christians.
Whether this American hero’s activism was informed by his religion is not my topic today. That is for historians to
decide. Where I want to focus is on the strange conclusion of Avraham Avinu’s confrontation with God before the destruction
of S’dom. The question posed to God by Avraham Avinu fows directly from his belief system as discussed last week. Avraham
Avinu came to theism through the recognition of his own innate moral sense [see Sichos Rav Ozer Lech Lecha 5768]. When he
questions the Creator regarding the imminent destruction of the innocents of S’dom along with the guilty, Avraham is asking a
cosmological question. If theism is the supreme organizing principle of the Universe, then the destruction that is about to occur
is grossly incoherent.
The Torah is characteristically honest in a way that Hitchens, its critic, is not:
:ומקמל בש םהרבאו םהרבא לא רבדל הלכ רשאכ ‘ה ךליו
The conversation ends abruptly with no resolution. God’s essential morality is beyond the ken of a mere mortal, as unique in
human history as he may have been.
When God appeared to Avraham to conclude an everlasting pact, He identifes Himself as “יד-ש ל-א“. It is worth noting
A Case of Mistaken Identity
that this appelation is reserved exclusively in Chumash For the Patriarchs and and a gentile seer. In four places, the name is used in
connection with Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, or (l’havdil) Bilaam. The only other connection in which the name appears is the most
instructive:
:םהל יתעדונ אל ה-ו-ה-י ימשו יד-ש ל-אב בקעי לאו קחצי לא םהרבא לא אראו
There is an aspect of God unrevealed to those who preceded Mosheh Rabbenu. They knew Him as ““יד-ש ל-א “. What is this aspect
and how does it difer from God at Har Sinai? The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim explains the word ““as “יד“ (sufcient) with the prefx
“ש,“a contraction of “רשא“ or “that is.” Avraham perceived God as “Sufcient in and of Himself,” i.e., not contingent on the world for
His existence. This is God as Transcendent and outside the Universe.
After Mattan Torah, we perceive God as King, Father, Lawgiver. In these aspects, God is partially defned by His relationships.
A king has subjects, a father children, a lawgiver a code. Once the shift has been made at Sinai to Divine Law, the relationship
between Lawgiver and the Universe governed by that Law is defned and can be known.
The Transcendent God, יד-ש ל-א, stands wholly outside the comprehension of the human mind. Avraham Avinu struggled
with the destruction of the world during the generation of the Deluge and came to locate the existence of God in the depths of his
own consciousness. He searched for God and God reached out to him. The contours of the Divine relationship with the world are
unknowable to Avraham Avinu. His advocacy for the innocent is suddenly left unanswered; the conversation abruptly ends with no
overarching moral principle.
Secular morality failed during the generations preceding Noach. Avraham Avinu is not a social progressive; his morality is
cosmological. Hitchens may not understand the distinction but Shakespeare did. King Lear is a paean to non-contingent morality
built into the fabric of creation.
But as Shakespeare notes, even morality as cosmology can fail. The transformation of the clan into a people will require the
institution of Law which will thereafter frame the relationship between God and His people.
םולש תבש
These sichos are published by students and admirers of Rav Ozer Glickman shlit”a. We may be reached at ravglickmanshiur@gmail.com.



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