In this week’s Torah portion of Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1–17:27), Avram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, is told by God that he will be blessed, and his “descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the heaven” (Genesis 15:5).
The elderly and childless Avram did not ask God for a sign of proof about this promise. Instead, “he believed in God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
Putting your faith and trust in God is a powerful expression of spirituality.
But is faith the only way to be considered righteous in God’s eyes? Some missionaries would like you to think so, and reference Genesis 15:6 as proof that “if you believe in Jesus, you will be saved.”
The Torah teaches that there are other ways besides faith, to be righteous in God’s eyes.
One proof that the missionary interpretation is wrong is found in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 106, David recalls the story of Pinchas zealously stopping a plague that threatened to destroy the Jewish people. This story is first recorded in Number 25:7-9.
Kind David adds an amazing insight when he says, “Pinchas arose and executed judgment, and the plague was halted, and it was accounted to him as righteousness” (Psalm 106:30-31).
Repeating the words first attributed to Avram in Genesis, we see that both Avram’s faith and Pinchas’ actions were “accounted as righteousness.”
The Torah also states that the reason Abraham merited to have offspring was because he “obeyed God’s voice, and observed God’s commandments and laws” (Genesis 26:5).
These passages demonstrate that true faith is accompanied with righteous actions. This combination is the real ticket to heaven.
May this Shabbos provide additional opportunities to experience and develop our relationship with God.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz