Genesis (12:1 to 17:27)
Ten generations after Noah, God examines creation and, again, desires to create a better world. This time the Eternal’s plan involves selection of a single family and its descendants to act as a “light to the nations” showing the way toward tikkun olam – a world repaired.
“The Eternal One said to Abram, “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and it shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will pronounce doom on those who curse you; through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
“So Abram went forth as the Eternal had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.… They set forth for the landof Canaan.” (Genesis 12:1-6)
For Abram, later to be called Abraham, life begins at age 75! ….
The only mention of Abram in Torah prior to this advanced age comes from last week’s text where we learn that:
- Terah, who lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, had three children – Abram, Nahor , and Haran.
- Abram married Sarai who was barren … she had no offspring
- Terah decided to move to Canaan with his son and daughter-in-law (Abram and Sarai), and Nahor’s son, Lot.
- The group reached Haran, where they settled, and where Terah died. (Genesis 11:26-30)
The fact that the story of Abram in Torah begins with the call for Abram to “Go forth… to a land that [God] will show you” indicates that this is the beginning … the beginning of the story of Abram/Abraham as the first to follow God…. And the beginning of the story of the future nation of Israel. There are many stories in Midrash that relate Abraham’s childhood years including the famous story where Abram destroys his father’s idols. These stories do not appear in Torah. Many commentators claim that the focus of these stories is more about monotheism than Abram’s early life.
With a closer look at the wording of God’s call to Abram, the order of the phrases seems unusual… Go forth from…
- Your land
- Your birthplace
- Your father’s home
If one were moving, the normal process would be for a person to first leave their home… then the location is changed (birthplace) … and lastly, a way of life (land).
The order as stated in Torah seems to indicate that the requested move is more than just a change of location.
- The first move requested is to leave your land – or way of thinking. It seems that Abram is asked to adopt a new way of thought – a spiritual move.
- Next Abram is asked to change his location – Move away from the old thinking to a place where new ways can be adopted.
- And lastly, a request is made for new family connections that will adopt and confirm this new spiritual process.
Abram agrees to make this spiritual move (belief in one God) and physical move (make Canaan a new home for him and his family … a place where his spiritual beliefs may grow). And with this request of Abram, we see that the Eternal has changed his plan for a more perfect world…. Adam and Eve were the Eternal’s initial players …. When the world’s inhabitants adopted evil ways, Noah and his offspring were chosen to survive a world destroyed by a flood. But, again – ten generations later – the world’s population had still failed to match the Eternal’s plan.
With this call to Abram, the Eternal is now looking to an individual family to become a “light unto the nations” and act a model for the realization of God’s plan. The rest of Torah will show how this plan moves toward realization.
Whether this actually happened as stated in Torah…. Or is part of a magnificent document inspired by God and written by man…. I don’t know…. But I am sure of the fact that God’s plan for a perfected world is presented in the Torah.
The call to move to a new way of thinking… a new location … and new family… is just as relevant today and it might have been to Abram, or Moses, our grandparents, or parents. As we read Torah, we discover that, as 21st century Jews, we too are responsible to examine to direction of our lives. We too, are called to move to a spiritual world that follows God’s ways. This may be accomplished by living a life as outlined by the laws of Torah… living a life that acts to move toward a better world (tikkun olam) … or maybe moving to Israel.
By looking at these words from Torah directed at Abram nearly four thousand years ago, we too, are asked to move. Are we ready?