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Asking the Clergy: What can be learned from Abraham’s obedience to God?

Mendel Teldon

Mendel Teldon Credit: CHABAD OF MID-SUFFOLK / Tom Keller

Abraham is a prophet and the spiritual ancestor of three world religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — which are collectively the Abrahamic faiths. The Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, celebrated this year at the beginning of September, honors the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of submission to God’s command. This week’s clergy discuss what we can learn from Abraham’s unfailing trust in the Almighty.

Rabbi Mendel Teldon

Chabad of Mid-Suffolk, Commack

There are two different types of trust. There is the kind of trust that says, “I trust in God because I never bothered thinking too deeply into anything, so I just leave it up to him,” which is really a simplistic approach and can be used as a crutch, preventing us from owning our role in this world. Then there is the kind of trust that says, “I realize that I am quite limited in my ability to see the big picture and the true ripple effect of my actions, so I rely on something greater than me,” which is a maturing moment when we are able to grasp the limits of our own humanity. Real trust in God is when we appreciate there is something higher than ourselves that we are able to give ourselves over to. That entity is infinitely more knowledgeable than mere mortals and will always have our backs. Abraham was not communicating, “I am too weak to actually make a decision for myself, so I am following with blind faith.” He was trying to relay the idea that we all have to recognize where the abilities of a person end and the power of the all-powerful begins. God is the ultimate GPS. When he gives us a route, we sometimes think that we know an alternative way, a shortcut, since we don’t think that the GPS has all of the most recent data. Trust means internalizing that God knows us, his creations, better than we know ourselves and has projected every variable and still thinks this is the best route. A parable: A tightrope walker asks the crowd if anyone believes he can walk across the rope blindfolded while pushing a wheelbarrow. They all cheer him on and scream that they believe he can do it. He then asks, “Anyone ready to get in the wheelbarrow?” There is belief, and then there is trust.

Azhar Bhatt

Member, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury

Religious books and their stories of Moses, Abraham and Jesus are an ocean of wisdom where people draw out many different pearls. To me the life of Abraham offers one main lesson: putting your trust in God. Abraham’s life, per biblical and Quranic sources, looks to be a difficult one. I see constant and difficult trials that he had to go through. He did not question God. Rather he put his trust in the decree of God. And his trust is rewarded. Muslims, to this day, perform Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to remember the sacrifice and obedience of Abraham and his family. The most difficult story to read, however, is when he is called upon to give up his son. The story shows his pure, unwavering belief and trust in God. A trust that the God he believes in is full of mercy. A trust that God will not harm his son; and God does not. To me the greatest lesson to learn from Abraham’s life is to trust God and do good. The world would be a much safer place today had people trusted God and spread peace, instead of trying to “defend” God through acts of violence.

The Rev. James Barnum

Bellmore Presbyterian Church, Bellmore

Why did God choose Abraham? Not for his obedience, though he was willing to give up his promised son to God, nor for what he did or for what he failed to do, but in these words found in the Book of Romans (4:13): “When God promised Abraham and his descendants that the world would belong to him, he did so not because Abraham obeyed the law, but because Abraham believed and was accepted as righteous by God.” When we think of the promises of God today, we can always rely on them. Abraham heard God say to him to leave his country and his people and trust God for his future. He did obey, and remember, this was way before Moses and the giving of the law. When Jesus died on the cross (fully human, fully God) He was obedient to the call of love to suffer and to endure the crucifixion on the cross for all of humanity. Although God did ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, and Abraham was obedient at that moment to the God of love and mercy, God would not let that happen to Abraham nor to his son, Issac. That is why I am passionate as a minister, to share with any the Good News that Jesus not only died for them, but also that God promises us all abundant living, not in order to make us rich or healthy, but for us to learn that we can be truly loved and at peace.

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