In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Lech Lecha GENESIS 12:1-17:27, Abram is commanded by God to leave the land he knows and journey to a place “that I will show thee”. Once there, Abram almost immediately experiences famine, family tension and war. Through it all, however, God is with him, promising him greatness. At the end of the portion, God commands Abram to circumcise himself and the members of his household. He renames him Abraham, and that is how he is known to this day.
Topic 1: Abram: A Journey and a Promise
God tells Abram to journey to a land that He shall show him and there He will make him into a great nation. The Israel Bible cites Rashi, who explains God’s unusual phrasing: Go for you. According to the sage, it is for Abram’s benefit that he make this journey, even though he is giving… Read More »
Topic 2: War of the Four Kings vs. the Five Kings
The Torah now provides some political background to Abram’s life. An alliance of four kings waged war against five kings, oppressing them. The five kings fought back, briefly gaining the upper hand, but by the time Abram — or more precisely, his nephew, Lot — arrives on the scene, the four have beaten down the… Read More »
Topic 3: The Covenant Between the Parts
After the war, God reinforces his promises to Abram. He assures him that even though he is childless now, his descendants will one day be as numerous as the stars in heaven. Before that happens, though, God tells Abram, his children will be strangers in a strange land. God tells Abram to take three… Read More »
Topic 4: Hagar and Ishmael
Abram’s wife Sarai realizes that she is barren, and wants her husband to father children. She therefore gives him her handmaid, Hagar, as a surrogate womb. When Hagar quickly gets pregnant, however, she loses respect for her mistress, and Sarai punishes her. Hagar runs away. At an oasis in the desert, Hagar is met… Read More »
Topic 5: Circumcision and a New Lease on Life
When Abram is 99 years old, and Sarai is 89, God appears to Abram and once again promises him many descendants to inherit the land. He tells Abram that from now on, he will be known as Abraham, meaning father of many nations, and his wife’s name will change to Sarah (which means princess, but… Read More »
Topic 6: Haftarah – Avraham Presents the First “Israel Test”
In 2009, noted economist George Gilder published The Israel Test, which boldly argued that individuals and nations fall into one of two categories depending on how they answer the following questions: What is your attitude toward people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishment? Do you aspire to their… Read More »
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