Possibly one of the most fascinating Medrashim on the Torah, is the story of our forefather Avraham who was cast into a fiery furnace and miraculously emerged completely unscathed.
The Torah does not openly tell us this story; it alludes to it leaving it to our oral tradition, the Medrash, to fill us in with the details.
Avram was born to Terach and his mother Amasloyi.
On the day that Avram was born, King Nimrod’s astrologers saw a star shoot across the sky, absorbing four stars, one in each direction. They explained to the wicked Nimrod that this meant that Terach would have a son who will be the progenitor of a nation that will inherit this world and the World to Come. “We suggest that you give Terach a handsome amount of money for his son, and we will kill him.” When Terach was approached, he told them that he had a child but the child died. Terach then took his infant son Avram, who G-d later renamed Avraham, and hid him in a cave until he was three years old.
When Avram emerged from the cave, he asked himself, “Who created all of this?” He began praying to the sun. When the sun set and the moon emerged he prayed to the moon. The next day, when the sun appeared again, Avram realized that there was a power above them all. He went over to his father and asked him, “Who created everything?” His father answered, “My god.” “Can you show it to me?” Terach immediately took out his idol and showed it to Avram. Avram went to his mother and asked her to prepare a meal so that he could offer it to the god. He presented the meal before the idol and nothing happened. He thought that perhaps the food wasn’t good enough so he asked his mother to prepare even better food. When the idol did not move this time, Avram prophesied the verse in King David’s Psalms, “They have a mouth, but do not speak; they have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear.” Avram destroyed the idols except for the largest. He placed a hammer in the largest idol’s hand.
When his father saw this, he asked Avram why he destroyed the idols. Avram answered, “I didn’t destroy them; the biggest idol got angry at the others and clashed with them.” “Are you crazy?” shouted his father, “How is that possible? These idols cannot move!” Avram tried to reason with his father. “Listen to what you are saying. These pieces of wood have no power. Why do you insist on serving them and believing that they created the world?” Terach became upset and brought Avram to Nimrod. Nimrod claimed that he was god and created the world. When Avram rejected this claim, he was publicly thrown into a fiery and intense furnace. G-d had mercy on Avram and miraculously saved him from the furnace. From that point on Avram became tremendously famous, for G-d’s miracle was witnessed publicly. People would flock to him to seek his blessings and his monotheistic belief began to spread throughout society.
Later in life, Terach came to his senses and became a believer in G-d and changed from his old ways.
We state in the first blessing of our daily Amida prayers, “Our G-d, the G-d of our fathers; the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchok and the G-d of Yaacov.” We then continue extolling G-d and finish the blessing with, “Blessed are You Hashem, the shield of Avraham.”
The Talmud explains why we specifically end with only Avraham. It is because G-d told Avraham – “Blessing will be with you” – meaning the blessing will conclude only with you and not with the other forefathers.
Rabbi Shimon Shkop o.b.m. explained that Avraham’s upbringing differed from that of Yitzchok and Yaacov. Avrohom was raised in an idolatrous atmosphere yet he rose above it by analyzing, seeking and pursuing the truth, while Yitzchok and Yaacov were raised from infancy in an environment of holiness.
While we would think that the belief in G-d only strengthened as Avraham’s descendants continued, the Talmud is telling us that our belief in G-d is contains Avraham’s life and experiences that he taught us. This is the significance of concluding the blessing with only Avraham’s name.
Reb Shimon, in the early 1900’s, continued, as we enter the concluding phase of our odyssey – towards the arrival of the Moshiach – redemption, we will witness a resurgence of Jews returning to their roots – similar to Avraham. Jews who were not raised with Torah beliefs will come and discover it on their own and while they are on their journey the positive spiritual energy will brim and overflow to their surroundings.
Just as G-d said the blessing, which in fact, mentions the final redemption, should conclude specifically with Avraham, so too, the concluding chapter of the Jewish stage leading up to the Moshiach, will mature with Jews stirring and awakening in their quest for spirituality just as our forefather Avraham!
We are blessed to see this phenomenon actually happening today!