Off the Pulpit: Self-intoxiation

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

Noah is often compared unfavorably to Abraham. When told the world would be destroyed, Noah did not protest. When told evil people in Sodom would be destroyed, Abraham sought to save them. The Torah says that Noah walked ‘with God.’ Abraham is told to walk ‘before God’ suggesting greater strength and self-reliance.

What is the source of the difference? The Torah teaches Noah was the first to plant vineyards and immediately became drunk on their product. He was intoxicated by the work of his own hands.

Abraham, according to the Rabbis, grew up as an apprentice in his father’s idol store. Yet he protested and recognized that idols were unworthy of worship. In other words, unlike Noah, he was not intoxicated by the work of his own hands. He kept God before him, and knew that what he made was not ultimate.

As our inventions grow more ingenious and more ubiquitous, Abraham’s lesson is more powerful than ever. So long as human beings are enamored with their own creations there is danger. If we do not allow them to control us, but worship the Creator above what we create, we will be true children of Abraham.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple of Los Angeles.)

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