There is an ancient story about Abraham smashing all the idols in his father’s shop to prove that the idols were only statues, not gods. As a child, I always thought that this story was in the Torah, so often was it told, so necessary did it seem in order to explain the relationship between God and the one then called Abram.
Scripture offers no early biography of Abraham, no portrait of the spiritual father as a young man. Rather, Abram appears on the horizon as a traveler at the end of one chapter and at the beginning of the next, God speaks to Abram—and he obeys.
The sages who told the story saw in it the pattern for their own spiritual journeys. Abram’s trek to Canaan was preceded by an intellectual and spiritual journey in which his questions became quests; during which an inner presence became so familiar that he recognized it from beyond as well as from within. Reflection led to revelation.
The sages’ story is a tale of the triumph of a son’s truth over a father’s falsehood, breaking idols and making the image of a faith, forever. The Modern Hebrew poet, Yehuda Amichai, places the story in a different perspective. The child who smashes the parent’s idols is a cyclical story, not a tale told only once, shaping an eternal truth:
We are all children of Abraham
but we are also the grandchildren of Terah, Abraham‟s father.
And now, perhaps, the time has come for the grandchildren to do
to their father what he did to his father
when he broke his statues and idols, his religion and faith.
But this, too, will be the beginning of a new religion.