In this week’s parshah Avraham sends his trusted servant on a mission to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Before sending the servant off, he makes him swear that not only will he find Yitzchak a wife but he will bring the wife back to the landof Cana’anand not send Yitzchak to her, outside of the Promised Land.
The servant is somewhat worried to promise such a thing, “Maybe the woman will not want to follow me back to this land.” What will happen if she refuses to leave her land to come to Cana’an.
Avraham is adamant that in all circumstances Yitzchak will not leave Israel and he promises the servant, “God, the God of the heavens who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth and who spoke to me and swore to me saying, ‘I will give this land to your seed’, He will send His angel before you and you will take a wife from there for my son.” (BeReishit 24:7)
This verse appears straightforward except for one thing, Avraham describes God as the God of heavens. Yet just a few verses previously, while making the servant swear he referred to God as “the God of the heaven and the God of the land.” Why does Avraham appear to limit God’s influence only to the heaven and not to the land?
Rashi supplies an answer “he said that now He is the God of the heavens and the God of the earth as I made Him known to the people, but when He took me out from my father’s house He was the God of the heavens but not the God of the earth as the inhabitants of the world did not know Him and His Name was not common in the world.”
Until Avraham started publicizing God’s Name to the people of the world, God Himself was in some way confined to the heavens but He was not really the God of the earth. If Rashi had not said this we would never say such a thing, as it appears that God was limited until Avraham came along to the world.
However, Rashi is making a very deep statement about Avraham’s task in the world. Since Adam’s sin there was a split in the world between heaven and earth. Man existed and acted in the physical tangible world, and God resided in heavens, and the two met very rarely. Even at times when man looked for God he would look to the heavens, remember the Tower of Babel, but could not conceive of finding God residing in the physical world.
All this was true until Avraham came along and taught the entire world an important lesson about the relationship between man and God. God, he said, is not relegated to the heavens, God and Godliness exist in this world and it is our task as humans to seek out God within the confines of the physical world wherever we can find Him.
We are to take the elements of the physical world; food, physical pleasures, the land itself, and elevate it to the level that we can utilize it to serve God. In this way God is not only God of the heavens, but He is also God of the earth.
This was the essence of the novelty of Avraham’s approach and this is the essence of being a Jew, we need to recognize and publicize God not only in the spiritual plane but in our everyday physical lives as well.