I had a conversation with a fellow student from my program yesterday, a Christian, about our religions and the central figures in them. Of course, as is probably always the case, we had our disagreements when it came to certain central themes, but he did say something, about two of the most central figures in Judaism, which I found rather interesting and, well, correct.
He related to the different focus of Avraham Avinu, A”S, and Moshe Rabenu, A”S, roles, the one being a man of faith, whereas the other was a man of law – rather simple put, I know, but nevertheless. I think that is pretty obvious, the main focus of Avraham Avinu, A”S, certainly was faith, being told to leave everything he know for an unknown country somewhere out there. And, thinking about it, he wasn’t presented for many wonders by God, more by promises, some of them coming true in his own live, true, but nevertheless. Moshe Rabenu, A”S, on the other hand, had his amount of miracles performed in front of him. Think about how he was saved as a child, though through the action of man, it still does appear miraculous. Or consider his meeting with God, which – if anything – certainly appeared, well, miraculous. A burning bush?
Avraham Avinu, A”S, did what Moshe Rabenu, A”S, didn’t have to do, namely acting more or less solely on faith, at least in the beginning. He certainly was a man of faith. Moshe Rabenu, A”S, I believe, also was, but he had other challenges, those as a leader for a grumpy and complaining people. Moshe Rabenu, A”S, couldn’t have much doubt of God’s plans and might, that was revealed to him constantly.
But why did we meet the man of faith before the man of law? Why the establishment of the faith, before we got the right direction to express our faith? I believe that it was because it was needed like that. Because no one will act on direction without faith, without some kind of belief that what you are told to do is the right thing. The Jews, when being given the Torah at Mount Sinai, responded to God with the words “Na’aseh w’Nishmah!” We will do, and then will we understand (literally ‘hear’, but always being interpreted as meaning ‘understand’). It was faith that led to the acceptance, faith that God knew what was right. Well, according to the Midrash also a portion of fear, but nevertheless.
My friend told me about a meeting he had with a Jew, who basically told him that faith didn’t matter, only actions, and that is probably a picture many Christians, and unfortunately also some Jews, have of Judaism, as a religion purely of actions, without any focus on faith, a religion of law! But that is a twisted view of religion. Our founding father was brought forth solely based on his faith in God, without which no Jewish people would have been, nor – I guess – any Arab forefather found in Ishmael.
We need faith, faith in ourselves, in our surroundings, and in our leaders. And Judaism, as much as any other religion, teaches that.