A rabbi delivers a thoughtful homily on the iconoclasm of Scripture’s proto-Hebrew.
The old story is comfortably familiar: Young Abraham destroyed the idols that were his father’s stock in trade and became the world’s first monotheist. That early episode served as foreshadowing of the subsequent career of the biblical patriarch, yet the Abrahamic back story, a primal tale as integral to Christianity and Islam as it is to Judaism, is not found in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, the tale originated with a rabbinic expository narrative dating from the first century of the Common Era. The shattering of those graven images is a foundational legend essential to the Abrahamic faiths, but particularly for Jews, whose religious job description, as noted by Salkin (Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens, 2012, etc.), entails the smashing of icons. The mission of the Jews, as outsiders, is to act as exemplars. The author sees that, today, the false gods of consumerism and materialism need to be broken, and the vocation of Abraham’s co-religionists, “the Other,” is still the setting of standards. That may explain, in part at least, anti-Semitism. In passionate prose (that often switches tense, even in mid-sentence), Salkin follows the theme of fire, as a form of punishment, and the theme of shattering, from Creation to the destruction by Moses of the first edition of the Ten Commandments to Kristallnacht and the glass-shattering by the Nazis. Remarkably, and despite all the evidence, the author declares that the Holocaust was not a war against the Jews or Judaism. It was a war, he asserts, against God. His sermon purports to call all the monotheistic faiths to renewed iconoclastic spirit, though it appears most urgently and clearly directed to members of his own faith.
An earnest exegesis of a powerful legend of the first Jew, designed for the faithful—not for atheist or pagan readers.