Last week, we examined a Gemara in Brachos which cites a passuk in Bereishis (15:8) in which Avraham Avinu calls HaShem “Master,” or L-rd. The Gemara says, “From the time that HaShem created the world, no one called HaShem ‘Master’ until Avraham Avinu did (in the aforementioned passuk).” And the obvious difficulty is the implication that there was something lacking in, say, Noach’s knowledge and belief of the nature of HaShem. And Avraham’s, until just then! Tosafos there asks why the Gemara did not cite the earlier passuk (15:2) in which Avraham says, “HaShem, my L-rd (Master), what can You give me if I lack children?” And we saw that although Tosafos explains that chronologically, 15:8 occurred before 15:2, Ramban most definitely does not agree, for he says that Avraham’s question in 15:8, “How shall I know that I shall inherit it?” was that the promise of the land be as unequivocal as the promise of children (15:2) which preceded it. So we search for the meaning of the Gemara, as well as for the key as to why 15:2 was not the passuk chosen to be the proof.
And we saw the Gra, from whose words we saw that the nub of Avraham “calling HaShem L-rd, or Master,” is that the declaration was, in effect, “Master of All,” or Adon Kol. Now, what does that mean, and why did Avraham Avinu reach that insight now?
The Rashba (in his peirush specific to the agadda parts of Maseches Brachos) explains the words of the Gemara cited above as follows:
Realize that in the days of Avraham there were people who worshipped spiritual forces in the universe, and made statues representing those forces. These people were experts in astrology and the workings of all heavenly bodies… They thought these forces actually ruled the world independently until Avraham Avinu came along and taught them otherwise. That is to say, although the stars and constellations and mazalos do have a certain control over what transpires on Earth, so that a person can be said to be born under a mazal of wealth or poverty, or a mazal of longevity or of a short life-span, nevertheless a person can overcome the strength of his or her mazal through his or her actions in this world. Avraham was under a mazal which made him childless, but he overcame that through his spiritual actions which bonded him with the very first, most powerful Cause Who controls all, HaShem, the Adon Kol… And no force of any star or constellation was then able to overcome that force! So when Avraham was promised children, he declared HaShem as the ultimate Master, because it was through that promise and its fulfillment that it became publicized to the people of Avraham’s generation who were experts in astrology that there is a Higher Power which can negate anything else being done; and certainly no godliness can be ascribed to anything submissive to a Higher Authority.
And when the Gemara says that no one called HaShem L-rd or Master until Avraham — what about Noach? Shem? Chanoch? Mesushelach? It means that HaShem’s mastery of all never became a matter of public knowledge and awareness, for nothing quite so public and quite so unquestionably contradicted by all the forces of nature such as Avraham’s having a child had ever yet occurred. And Avraham “used” the opportunity afforded him — for his inability to have a child was well known — to further his dissemination of the reality of HaShem, the Master or Lord, of all. For when one who cannot father a child does so, we face incontrovertible proof of a World L-rd or Master.
Until now, we have seen the words of the Rashba, explaining the almost incomprehensible words of the Gemara. The promise-of-a-son to Avraham was an announcement of the existence of a Master of All! That there is no force in nature, no matter how “natural,” how inherently “true,” that will hold up in the face of the L-rd of all, negating it. [Try this simple experiment: Say, out loud, “If HaShem so wills it, reality would be that one plus one equals three.” Do you really believe that in your heart of hearts? That is the equal of Avraham having a son! That is what the Rashba is saying!]
And the publicity of the birth of Yitzchak was the “calling HaShem the Master of All,” for public knowledge equaled calling HaShem that Name.
Now we can also understand why in this week’s sedrah (21:8), we find Avraham made a huge, well-publicized banquet celebrating the weaning of Yitzchak, with the attendance, Rashi teaches us, of the leaders of the entire world. This was further promulgation of the “Master of All” concept, to the movers and shakers of the world.
So it makes perfect sense for this idea of “no one called HaShem Adon until Avraham Avinu” to be shown from 15:8, which took place after the events of 15:2, because 15:2 does not contain within it the idea the Gra sets forth in Orach Chaim (siman 5, the Adon Kol).
It also makes perfect sense for Avraham to have used that Name when asking for an irrevocable foothold in Eretz Yisrael for his descendants. For, as Ramban elaborates (Vayikra 18:25), the holiness of Eretz Yisrael is to a large degree based on its being the place on earth where HaShem openly rules in a direct fashion, without the “regular” channels that He “usually” uses. That land is the inheritance and heritage of Bnei Yisrael, His people, whom He rules over without any heavenly ministers, and that is where other “powers,” i.e. the celestial ministers, stars, and constellations, are foreign elements (see Ramban there at length). And so Avraham is saying, Adon Kol! Let this relationship forever be manifest openly amongst your people in the land, i.e. Eretz Yisrael, which carries that spiritual energy.
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