Once, during a trade fair, a number of rich merchants gathered in an inn. They were all Chassidim of various courts, and of course, each of them told stories of the wonders and miracles done by their particular Rebbe. Reb Shmuel Gurary, a Chossid of the Rebbe Maharash, was present as well. When it was his turn to tell a story, he said:
“Once, someone offered me a serious business proposition in timber harvesting and sales. It would require an enormous investment, but could generate a tremendous return if all went well. The risk was great, but so was the potential reward. Of course, I sought the advice of the Rebbe Maharash. The Rebbe told me to invest, and that’s what I did. Not long afterwards, the investment fell through and I lost everything I had put into the venture.”
Waiting for a miraculous punchline, the others were surprised that with these words, Reb Shmuel concluded his tale and fell silent.
“Avraham in the Idol Shop” is amongst the most cherished medrashim of our formative kindergarten parsha classes. It's a story of good old fashion Jewish smarts, of mesirus nefesh, of boldness and audaciousness.
Do you remember the first time you heard the story? And the punch line that he blamed it on the biggest idol. Brilliant! Look at him go! Smashing those idols, proving their worthlessness. Standing up to his parents, society and king. Every child leaves their kindergarten class thinking “when I grow up, one day I too will be like Avraham.”
But careful eyes will notice that there’s a major problem with the story. Because Avraham himself never grows up to be like Avraham. This is a one time event. Indeed, the Avraham that we meet in Lech Lecha is decidedly not an idol smasher.
And so the Chasam Sofer (ריש לך לך) questions: Why does Avraham destroy the idols in his home town of Ur Casdim, but never in Eretz Yisrael? Surely it would be his sacred duty to inform all those around him of the importance of ridding the Sacred Land of Israel of traces of Avodah Zara?
And yet he doesn't. This is not a result of weakness. Avraham is no push over. He goes to war against four armies and wins. And yet, never again does he wield the axe of destruction.