Every human being is a genius
Short Essays written on a variety of different Jewish concepts.
(Genesis 18 – 23)
2nd November 2017 | 13 Cheshvan, 5778
The Medieval commentator, R Isaiah Horowitz, points out a seeming grammatical mistake in this week’s portion. Abraham binds his son, Isaac, on the altar, about to carry out God’s instruction of killing him. God, however, calls to him from Heaven telling him not to do so. The reason He gives is that ‘now I knew that you are God fearing’. Yes, that’s the grammar it uses, now (present tense) I knew (past tense). Rabbi Horowitz gives a beautiful explanation of the meaning of this verse that I’d like to share.
Every human being is put into this world with incredible talents, abilities and aptitudes. Each of us is programmed with our own unique genius. No exceptions. However, we get zero credit for that because it’s only in potential. For seventy or so years, we have masses of potential to bring to fruition. And then, our time is up. What makes us who we are is how we use that potential; what we do with our lives; the choices we make.
To be a genius means nothing – if you sit and play computer games all day. Or, worse, if you use the gift of intelligence to become the best bank robber in history.
We all have greatness within ourselves – packaged and ready to be opened and activated. But the beauty is that we get to choose. In Judaism, nothing is determined or decided about who I am going to be. I get to be exactly who and what I want to be. (There is a complex world out there so I may not get to ‘do’ exactly what I want to ‘do’, but I do get to ‘be’ the person I choose to ‘be’.) God’s purpose, for our few short years, is to give us the opportunity to become great human beings. And we do that not by creating something new out of ourselves. We do it simply by actualizing that which already exists within us. The resources are all there – we just need to dig deep and make the choices that we know will lead us to that greatness.
So, from the day He created Abraham, God ‘knew’ exactly what his potential was, exactly the person that he had the potential to be. But only ‘now’, that Abraham made the choices that he made did God see what he already ‘knew’ come to fruition.
As such, we are partners with God. Not so much to build and develop His world. Yes, we do get a say in that and play a role; but, ultimately, He does all the heavy lifting. No, the place of our true partnership with God is in the actualization of the human spirit that is imbedded within each and every one of us. We get to make the choices (or not, as the case may be) that take something of incredible potential and make it into a great human soul. And it’s us that can do it, not God. Each one of us is a potential spiritual giant. And a potential nothing at the same time. Which it will be is entirely of our choosing.
So, God ‘knew’ our potential from the day we were born. Whether or not that potential remains something of the past, or becomes a living breathing ‘now’ is entirely up to us.