There is no obvious explanation in the biblical text for why it was Abram who was called by God for the sacred calling. What were the qualities that made him worthy? We just don’t know. But we can imagine, as the ancient rabbis did in the following midrash :
“Rabbi Yitzchak said: this may be compared to a man who was traveling from place to place when he saw a ‘Birah Doleket.’ The man said, ‘Is it possible that this castle lacks a supervisor?’ The owner of the building looked out and said, ‘I am the master of the castle.’ What happened with Abraham our father was similar. He walked through the world, noticing things, and said, ‘Is it possible that this universe lacks One to look after it?’ The Holy Blessed One looked out at Abraham and said to him, ‘I am the Master of the Universe.’ Now go. Lech Lecha.” (Genesis Rabbah 39:1, adapted)
Birah Doleket can mean “an illuminated palace” but it can also mean “a burning palace.” Fire warms, but it also incinerates. Fire can generate light, but it can also bring destruction. Light blinds, but it also clarifies. The world is beautiful. It is also deeply fragile.
Abram noticed God’s world was (and remains) aglow/aflame, and in response God called him to service. Just like Moses at the Burning Bush, God called, and the one who heard, the one who inquired, the one who stopped to ask “What is happening?” was also the one called to bring forth the message. Courage and curiosity. Noticing. Accepting responsibility.
When we look around and see an illuminated palace, we see all the wonders of the world: “Look at the sky, the blades of grass, the next human being in front of you. Take in all of that glory. How can this beauty be an accident?” To which God says “I’m right here, within all things, and I’m so glad you noticed. You must share this beauty-awareness. Go.”
When we look at this vulnerable planet and human vulnerability and see a palace on fire, we witness a burning world: “Look at this horrific destruction! What is the plan? Isn’t anyone taking care of things?” To which God says, “You are. It is upon you to carry the message forward and bring healing to the planet and justice to others.”
The world is on fire and the world is illuminated. God is in charge, or we are, or perhaps we are called share the burden as covenantal, creating partners. Perhaps Abram wasn’t sure why he was called or where he was headed. We may not know either. But when the world is on fire, there may not be time to ask those kinds of questions. Instead, we must answer the call, do what we can to bring light, and save each other, as we tend to our beautiful, fragile world.