Sermon: The Burning Palace By Gary Konecky In Genesis 12:1, G-d tells Abraham to leave his father’s house and journey

to a destination that G-d will show him. In the Midrash of the Burning Palace (Genesis Rabbah 39:10), we learn that as Abraham journeys, he passes a burning palace. Abraham wonders is it possible that the palace does not have an owner? Is it possible that the owner built a beautiful palace, only to abandon it and let it be consumed by fire? Abraham then sees someone in a palace window. Abraham asks if he owns the palace. The owner says that he is the owner of the palace. The owner does not make any attempt to flee the fire nor to put out the flames. He merely states that he is the owner of the palace. What does this mean? The meaning of this midrash is that as Abraham contemplated the world, G-d’s creation, a creation rich in miracles and wonders; from childbirth, to crops and food to eat, to spectacular sunrises and sunsets, to beautiful flowers, to the miracle of life itself; it is as if G-d built a palace. Yet the palace is in flames; the flames of injustice, war, terrorism, greed, rape, looting, plunder and murder. Abraham wonders, as do many of us, did G-d create all this only to abandon it? G-d answers from the burning palace that he is the owner. What does G-d mean by this? G-d’s answer is: “ I am the ruler, Sovereign of the universe.” While this is a factual statement, the meaning is not clear to us, nor was it clear to Abraham. Remember the palace is in flames; G-d’s creation is being destroyed by man. Abraham wonders how this could be happening. Why did G-d let man destroy His creation? Why would G-d abandon His creation, the palace? G-d replies, “I am the owner of the palace, I am Sovereign of the universe.” Abraham is asking G-d why He abandoned his creation. G-d replies by asking Abraham why did we abandon G-d? G-d gave us free will, and we used that free will to set fire to G-d’s palace. Because of G-d giving us free will, G-d cannot put out the fire consuming His palace. Therefore, G-d is asking Abraham, and us, to help Him by putting out the fire. And so we come to our mission; to extinguish the fires of immorality and injustice. It is our mission to be appalled by evil man has wrought upon G-d’s creation. To help guide us in the fulfillment of our mission, we come to this teaching from the Talmud (Sotah 14a ): “Just as G-d clothes the naked... so must you clothe the naked. The Holy Blessed One visits the sick... so you must also visit the sick. The Holy Blessed One comforts mourners... so must you comfort mourners. The Holy Blessed One buries the dead... so must you bury the dead.” Let us also remember what we are told in Micah 6:8: “…what the L-rd demands

of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your G-d.” May we all have the wisdom to use our free will to choose wisely and compassionately. May we use our lives to help to put out the fire of the burning palace.

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