When Abraham Sees God in Oak Trees

One Tiny Letter: Transformative Midrash

Dear Friends,

The Human Species, along with millions of others, stands at the brink of climate chaos – and this week’s Torah portion points to what we need to do.

The first sentence of the portion says "YHWH [Yahhhh, Breath of life] brought-about-being-SEEN to [Abraham] in [b'] the oaks of Mamre."

Then the story continues: ". . . and he lifted up his eyes and SAW [va'yar] and here! -- three people were standing upon him, and he SAW [va'yar] and ran . . .[to bring-them-near and then to feed them]."

First the oak trees themselves and then the three visitors were the visible, see-able presence of God.

How can the Divine Breathing-Spirit of the world become visible in trees? Think about the rustling leaves, quivering as the wind rushes from them, in them, into them. Quivering as the trees breathe out what we breathe in (oxygen), and then breathe in what we breathe out (carbon-dioxide). This is the rhythm of life upon our planet. As we open our eyes to this rush of breath, we see God.

And it was not till Abraham saw God breathing in these oak trees that Abraham was able to see God breathing in human beings.

Most translators translate that “b’ “ as “”by," not “in.” Why? Because they are blind to what Abraham can see: that God can be in the oak-trees, not just in the human beings close by.

That mistake of seeing the world as a Hierarchy with God as King and Lord and hyper-wealthy oil companies not far beneath – that mistake -- is the reason for Humanity’s blindness to the Interbreeding of all life – an ecological model, not a hierarchical one.

They are blinded by seeing “YHWH” as “Lord,” not “Breath.” It was only after Abraham and Sarah could see God in the oak-trees that they acted to affirm this holiness by feeding God -- who of course is never visible except in all that is around us -- that is, is ALWAYS visible if we open our eyes. Feeding God by feeding human beings -- sharing with earthy human beings the abundance of Earth.

And in response, the human beings who were God's messengers ("angelos" is simply Greek for "messenger") told Abraham and Sarah that they would, after all, have a child.

Once Abraham had deeply seen the interbreathing of all life as God, he more deeply saw the intertwining of adam and adamah, the earthy humus and the human earthlings, that feeds us all and celebrates the One. Not till he saw God in this body of earth-human interchange could his and Sarah's bodies intertwine to seed new life.

So if this story honors the first expression of Eco-Judaism (and maybe eco-Christianity and eco-Islam, all born of Abraham's vision), we should honor this story by opening our eyes to it.
Look closely at a tree, at grass. Sniff at its leaves, breathing life into it and out of it. Pray not to the tree but to the whispering, rustling Breath that enters it and leaves it.
Promise to sustain it. Act to sustain it.

In this moment of emergency, visit your Senators’ and Congresspersons’ local district offices. Wave a seedling. Don’t go away. No matter what party or persuasion they are, insist they act.
With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace, paz, namaste! -- Arthur
*** *** ***
Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s newest book Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion is now available!
Gloria Steinem calls it, “A wonderful book! Before the hierarchies and divisions of religions, there was the all-inclusive circle of spirituality. In Dancing in God’s Earthquake, Rabbi Arthur Waskow helps us trace our path back to our spiritual home.”

To order it, call Orbis Books at 1-800-258-5838. (If you want at least ten to share with others in your house of prayerful celebration, you get a 50% discount)..

Reb Arthur calls this book the “harvest of my whole life-experience – and like a harvest, intended not only to draw on the past but to feed the future.”



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