There is a tendency for us to place our Fathers and Mothers on a pedestal to look at them through rose colored glasses and to ignore their short comings. A perfect example of this is with Abraham our Father.Consider in Parshat Lech Lecha where we learn at 12:10 that without being prompted by Hashem, and on his own volition, Abraham and family leave the Promised Land and descend down to Egypt:
“And there was a famine in the land, and Abram descended to Egypt to sojourn there because the famine was severe in the land”.
וַיְהִ֥י רָעָ֖ב בָּאָ֑רֶץ וַיֵּ֨רֶד אַבְרָ֤ם מִצְרַ֨יְמָה֙ לָג֣וּר שָׁ֔ם כִּֽי־כָבֵ֥ד הָֽרָעָ֖ב בָּאָֽרֶץ
The Rambam takes Abraham to task for sinning in the first place by going to Egypt, and in compounding that sin by putting his wife in jeopardy of committing adultery.
Then there is the apparent contradiction in the Parshat as regarding the acceptance of gifts. At 12:16, Abraham has no problem accepting gifts from Pharaoh:
“And he benefited Abram for her sake, and he had flocks and cattle and he donkeys and men servants and maid servants, and she donkeys and camels”.
וּלְאַבְרָ֥ם הֵיטִ֖יב בַּֽעֲבוּרָ֑הּ וַֽיְהִי־ל֤וֹ צֹֽאן־וּבָקָר֙ וַֽחֲמֹרִ֔ים וַֽעֲבָדִים֙ וּשְׁפָחֹ֔ת וַֽאֲתֹנֹ֖ת וּגְמַלִּֽים
However compare this action with Abraham’s refusal to accept any booty at all from the King of Sodom in 14:23 -
“Neither from a thread to a shoe strap, nor will I take from whatever is yours, that you should not say, 'I have made Abram wealthy”.'
אִם־מִחוּט֙ וְעַ֣ד שְׂרֽוֹךְ־נַ֔עַל וְאִם־אֶקַּ֖ח מִכָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לָ֑ךְ וְלֹ֣א תֹאמַ֔ר אֲנִ֖י הֶֽעֱשַׁ֥רְתִּי אֶת־אַבְרָֽם
What’s going on here? Has Abraham come to the realization that wealth comes from Hashem and not from a petty personage.?
Then there is the issue of those who compare Abraham to Noach.
Noach is characterized in the Book of Genesis at 6:19 as having been righteous and perfect, a person who walks with God:
“Noah was a righteous man; he was perfect for his generation(s); Noah continually walked with God”.
נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים הִתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹֽחַ
In the Parshat at Genesis 17:1 Hashem expresses his aspiration for Abraham, telling Abraham to:
“…and God appeared to Abram, and He said to him, "I am the Almighty God; continually walk before Me and be perfect”, but not necessarily a tzadik.
וַיֵּרָ֨א יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־אַבְרָ֗ם וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ אֲנִי־אֵ֣ל שַׁדַּ֔י הִתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ לְפָנַ֖י וֶֽהְיֵ֥ה תָמִֽים
Abraham pleads with Hashem to forestall the destruction of Sodom. While the Chumash is silent on whether or not Noach acted in a similar fashion with respect to saving all of Creation. Because of this possible dichotomy, some commentators attribute Abraham to be more of a Mensch than was Noach.
However, Abraham was pleading from afar in his lofty perch overlooking the valley. In contrast, Noach was in harm’s way, where the action was, day after day after day. So you tell me; will the real tzadik please stand up.
And those commentators who favor Abraham over Noah support their contention by bringing up an interpretation that Noah was perfect for his generation, but not for the generation of Abraham. However, בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו, “for his generation(s)” is in the plural. Noah lived for 950 years; he overlapped with Abraham, by probably more than 40 years. Noah was not just part of the generation of the Flood. I think the Commentators may have had an axe to grind, and in doing so destroy the distinction between truth and belief.
Additionally, since we are into making comparisons. Let’s compare Abraham with Moses when it comes down to pleading for saving lives: Hashem is about to destroy the B’nai Israel for worshipping the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). Moses pleads with God saying something to the effect: “Forgive their sin or if not, blot me out with them”. In contrast, Abraham does not put his life on the line for the people of Sodom. In this regard, he falls short of Moses.
OK, so the guy was not always perfect, big deal; who is?Let’s take a look at his track record, his legacy. For one thing, Abraham was a trail blazer. Paraphrasing the Star Trek mission statement “to boldly go where no one has gone before”, Abraham is the Man. He crossed the river, ventured out from his land, his birthplace and his Father’s house to come to the Land that we now call Israel. And because of Abraham’s bold stroke we are here today, and I for one am very grateful. In a larger sense, of the six billion human beings that populate our planet, because of Abraham, half of them recognize that there is only one God who created them and every thing else. All of us are beholden to Abraham our Father…and rightly so.