Lech Lecha

“Leave your country, your birthplace and the house of your father and go to a land which I will show you.” This parsha is the beginning of Jewish history, which most commentators date at 4,000 years ago. Abraham is our first hero, and role model. The land is the land of Canaan, later the land of Israel. G-d promises this land to Abraham and his descendants “for an everlasting possession – Achuzat Olam”. When the time is ripe, G-d will help the children of Israel/Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) to conquer it from the Canaanites.

What kind of man was Abraham? He seems to have loved people, was very hospitable, he wasn’t afraid to go to war (to rescue his nephew Lot), he was assertive in his business dealings (in buying the Cave of Machpela to bury his wife). He had very strong faith in G-d, and such a good relationship that he was able even to argue with G-d when he thought it right: “Should the Judge of the earth not do Justice?” Abraham stands up for others, even for the people of Sodom whom he despises for their cruelty. Lech Lecha is also the story of a loving marriage, despite its long childlessness.

Sarah is a role model who supports her husband in his life’s work of journeying and spreading the faith in the One G-d, yet stands up to him when necessary. (G-d even tells Abraham in the next Parsha: listen to what your wife is telling you.). Abraham waits patiently and impatiently for G-d to give him the children He has promised. Jonathan Sacks (Covenant and Conversation) says that this patient faith is characteristic of the Jewish people. Abraham was supposed to have endured 10 tests of faith: he was childless for so long; he had to go to Egypt during a famine, where he was afraid for his life, and his wife was kidnapped by Pharaoh, when only a miracle saved her from rape. He suffered from the jealous and competitive strife between his wife and his concubine the Egyptian Hagar, the mother of his first son Ishmael.

After the false starts that G-d had had with Adam and Noah and the generations between, G-d began a relationship – and “Brit Olam” – an everlasting covenant – with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that has survived a long time. Jews have no reason to doubt this covenant lasts till today. Christians believe they replaced this covenant, and Muslims have rewritten the whole story. The concept of ‘Abrahamic faiths’ fulfils the prophecy of this Parsha that Abraham would become “the father of many nations”. It doesn’t say that these nations would get along. The jealousy and strife continue.

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