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    Abraham & the Torah – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why was the Torah not given to Abraham?

    The tomb of Abraham in the Cave of Machpelah, Hebron

    The tomb of Abraham in the Cave of Machpelah, Hebron

    A. Abraham is so highly esteemed that you may well have a point.

    The Talmud raises a similar question in relation to Ezra. “Had Moses not preceded him,” we are told, “Ezra would have been worthy of receiving the Torah for Israel” (Sanhedrin 21b).

    So if Ezra was qualified to receive the Torah, why not Abraham?

    A further Talmudic passage suggests an answer. It states that for the first 2000 years of history – according to rabbinic chronology, from Adam to Abraham – the world was destined to be spiritually desolate (Sanhedrin 97a). Thus though Abraham was a great man, his environment was not ready for the Torah, and it was only due to God’s grace and not human righteousness that the world survived (Maharsha).

    Moses’ generation, however, had suffered slavery, been carried out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings” (Exodus 19), and shared the birth pangs of nationhood, and they were ready for the Revelation.

    Abraham had to accept that there would be no Torah in his generation, just as David had to accept that there would be no Temple in his lifetime.

    Later history has had many a similar experience. Pioneering thinkers have dreamed of great things happening, but they were often ahead of their contemporaries and the dream could not come true until the times were right.

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