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Abraham

by Dr Anthony E. Smart
The progenitor of the Jewish people, Abraham is also considered in Rabbinic tradition to be a prophet second only to Moses. In the Bible, Abraham has several encounters with angels (Gen. 18, 22). In the Midrash he is granted many miracles. To save him from the wrath of evil King Nimrod, he is secreted away in a cave as an infant, where the angels feed and minister to him. Later God delivers him from the fiery martyrdom planned for him by Nimrod (Maasei Avraham Avenu).

In the Talmud he is celebrated as an astrologer (B.B. 16b), and in Midrash he sees his barrenness is written in stars. In time he learns that God is more powerful than their influence, for in changing his name, God also changes his fate. For this reason, he gives up the practice of astrology (Aggadat Bereshit). In Zohar he is credited with the knowledge to create a golem (1:79a), a knowledge alluded to in the Biblical text (Gen. 12:5). This tradition may spring from a single reference to him in the final chapter of Sefer Yetzirah. Because of this same reference, some mystics regard Abraham to be the author of that work. He also possessed a miraculous healing stone, the tzohar. After his death, God suspended it from the sun, enhancing the sun's healing powers (B.B. 16b).

In early Kabbalah, Abraham comes to be regarded as an archetype, a personification of sefirotic attributes. In later works this logic is reversed, with Abraham being treated as a divine attribute whose dynamic function in the world is expressed allegorically through the Abraham saga found in the Torah. He represents the sefirah of Chesed, pure love. (Pes. 118a; Gen. R. 38, 61; Mid. Teh.; Seder Eliyahu Rabbah; 1:13; Zohar, Bahir).


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