Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people: “Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Your fathers dwelt of old time beyond the River, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods.”
Why does Joshua begin admonishing the people with the observation of how morally degraded our ancestors were? Besides, which of our ancestors worshiped idols? Abraham smashed the idols and embraced Monotheism! True, it took Abraham some time until he discovered that the idols were futile. But why would we make mention of that at this point?
The answer is powerful. Joshua is not simply describing our disgraceful past, “In the beginning our fathers served idols; but now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Rather, Joshua is explaining why indeed G-d brought us close to His service. “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Had our fathers not worshiped idols, G-d could have never brought us close to Him.
What indeed was the difference between our grandfather Terach and our father Abraham? If Abraham rationally realized that the statutes of his father were nothing but lifeless, stone images, and that the universe must have a transcendental designer and creator, why could his father not understand this?
The foundations of Judaism do not require blind faith. They are rational. To assume that a house was built by contractor, not by mistake as a result of an avalanche randomly combining the bricks, is not irrational. To accept that an infinite and brilliant world has a designer who is mindful is rational. To accept that quintillions of atoms, structured in a way to create all the matter around us, were organized by intent is not foolish. To observe billions of units of DNA embedded in a single cell of a tiny organism and assume someone organized them is as irrational as thinking that a computer program consisting of three billion organized codes was randomly compiled by error. And remember, DNA does not create a computer program; it is the source of life.
If so, why is it that some are like Abraham — they will reject the deities of the time and embrace truth, while others will be like Terach, continue to stick to old, comfortable irrational notions?
The answer is “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Abraham worshipped idols! That is the key. He took faith seriously. He craved to know the truth. He was idealistically searching to find what is at the core of life. He served idols with passion, and deep commitment, believing that they constitute the answer to the question of life.
His father Terach was not searching for truth, only for comfort. The god statues provided a fine business and he would not be disturbed by philosophical questions.
Do you care for truth or not? That makes all the difference. Our forefathers worshipped idols. They passionately believed this was “it.” When they found the real G-d, they channeled their passion toward truth.
But if you are a person who does not worship anybody or anything — only your own needs and comforts at any moment, then even if you understand the truth about the universe, it makes little difference.
Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.