Abraham The Builder
I built the house.
First I made it out of air.
Then I raised the flag
and left it hanging
from the firmament, from the star, from
light and darkness. (Pablo Neruda in honor of La Sebastiana)
“God said to Abram, ‘Go for yourself from your land’ (Genesis 12:1).” Rabbi Yitzchak opened his discourse on this passage with a quote from Psalms: “Hear, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house (Psalms 45:11).” This is analogous to someone who was passing from place to place and saw a certain palace ablaze. He said to himself, “Shall you say that this palace is without a supervisor?” The owner of the palace peered out at him and said to him, “I am the master of the palace!” So too, because Abraham said to himself, upon seeing the constant structure and that was taking place in the world, “Can it be that this world is without a supervisor?” The Holy One, Blessed is He, peaked out at him and said to him, “I am the Master of the world!” The next verse in Psalms states, “Then the King will desire your beauty; for He is your master; so bow to him.” God will desire to beautify you, Abraham, in the eyes of the world, so bow to Him and be His servant (Bereishit Rabbah 39:1).”
Abraham has come to visit my sukkah and instruct me so I may join of The Society Builders (See “Ghosts As Guests.”) Abraham began his construction project by connecting people to God as the Ultimate Builder. He stood alone against the world. He chose his unique path and was willing to stand against everyone as he searched for the Master of the Palace. “First I made it out of air.”
He began to travel and to speak of the Creator as the Master of the Palace to others; “Then I raised the flag and left it hanging from the firmament.” He dedicated his life to having people look high above the heavens and join him in the search for the True Master of the Palace; “from the star.”
This is the Abraham of whom it is written, “He took him outside, and said, ‘ Gaze, now, toward the heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them!’ And He said to him, ‘ So shall your offspring be’ (Genesis 15:5).” We are taught that God lifted Abraham above the stars and the planets and promised him that he would not be controlled by the constellations but would always be empowered to create his own destiny. This was the promise for Abraham himself and for his offspring.
This is the message that Abraham brings to my Sukkah: “You must be willing to build your own house; a place that reflects your vision and values, your beliefs and convictions. Even if you begin by making it out of air; having to stand up against the world and fight for what you believe is true. If you can build such a house, if you’re Sukkah will reflect your beliefs, it won’t be a flag hanging, “from the firmament, from the star,” and will empower you, as it did me, to live above the stars; to create your own destiny.
“Your little booth here may be a little flimsy, but it is no weaker than the house I built that began, “out of air.”
Abraham bids me a farewell and goes on to his next visit.
I sit alone in my sukkah and reflect on his message.
Is this, my small booth, a reflection of my beliefs?
Am I able to look through the empty spaces in my roof toward the heavens and see myself lifted as was my special guest, above the stars?
Am I willing to live a life in which I can shape my destiny?
I am ready. I am ready to build such a house, such a life.
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