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The Concept of Zechut Avot

Abraham Isaac and Jacob in Mumbai

by Moshe Kempinski

The concept of Zechut Avot (the merit of the forefathers) in Jewish thinking refers to the concept that, when all else fails, the Jewish people can at times depend on the merits of their forefathers, "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob".

The simple understanding of that concept might lead one to assume that one's direction and determination in life would be decided based upon the greatness and sanctity of others.

That simple understanding would be inconsistent with Jewish understanding.
We each stand before our Creator armed with the decisions we make, the character of our souls and the yearnings of our hearts.

What then is Zechut Avot?

The Ramban describes that "the deeds of our fathers are a signpost for the children." And that this is a cardinal rule of Jewish history. In his commentary on Parshat Lech Lecha he writes:

"I will tell you a rule to be applied throughout the parshiot of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The Rabbis stated this rule as 'everything that happened to the fathers is a sign for the children'. The Torah tells stories, at length, about journeying or well digging ... one might think that these are meaningless details but in reality they reflect something of the future. When an event occurs to one of the prophets, who are our forefathers, he will understand that a form of these occurrences will occur as well to his descendants."


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Comment by James and Terry Hamilton on July 27, 2009 at 3:13pm
And yes History is repeating itself as you know
Comment by Mrs. Sharon B. Hodge on July 27, 2009 at 2:22pm
Looking at the fathers of many, it would be truly disturbing to be visited with the same outcome.

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