Last week we explained that one of the names we use to referring to HaShem is ABINU, our father. We said that Yesha’ayah, the prophet Isaiah, was the first to use this word in reference to God as our creator (see here ), the One who gave us our life.
But there is more, much more to this word. When we say Abinu we should recall the most important discovery of our father Abraham. Conventional wisdom has it that Abraham’s greatest finding was monotheism, that God is only one. Or that Abraham was able to conceive God’s incorporeality, that God is invisible, cannot be seen or represented by an image. But above all these great ideas there was something else that revolutionized the way we think about God.
In those days, ancient civilizations like the Sumerian or the Egyptians perceived the gods as super powerful beings who were always struggling to advance in their ranks or waging war against each other. They were too busy minding their own business and had no time, and absolutely no interest, in the dealings of human beings. But somehow, often indirectly, they affected the local weather, the destiny of human beings, etc. Marduk, for example, was the Sumerian storm-god. And sometimes in his battles against his grandmother Tiamat or other gods, he would involuntarily unleash a tornado or a heavy storm which threatened to destroy the city of Ur or Lagash. In Egypt the crocodiles were the incarnation of the Sobek, the Egyptian god of the Nile. In times of a heavy storm or in times of drought these gods needed to be appeased, often by feeding them or bribing them with precious sacrifices (human blood was of of their favorite snack!). It would have been inconceivable that these cruel and violent gods would do any favor for humans. Why would they? Humans were an annoyance. The gods had zero interest in humankind’s whereabouts, suffering or needs. They care only about themselves and humans were there to serve them.
What Abraham discovered and taught to the world is that HaShem, the real God who created heavens, earth and life, cares about His creation. Abraham realized this when HaShem expressed His interest about Abraham’s problems, specifically, about him not having a son. Abraham understood that HaShem cared about him. And that HaShem was willing to give Abraham a son without asking anything in return!
The only reason someone would do you a favor without asking anything in return is if that someone loves you. Abraham’s greatest discovery is that HaShem was ABINU, our father, and that he was Abraham “ahubi”, Abraham, my beloved, i.e., HaShem’s beloved. Abraham recognized that HaShem loves us as we love our children. Like a loving father, he cares about our suffering, our needs, and our lives. Like a protecting parent He gives us food, shelter, children, health .
The word ABINU is loaded with this beautiful meaning. It inspires us to appreciate how much HaShem cares for us, and reminds us that He loves us as much as we love our children.