This week’s Parsha (Torah portion), Lech Lecha, brings a new and sharp focus to God’s Creation. In the opening words of the Parsha, God specifically instructs a particular individual, Avraham, to leave his home and move to the Land.
In fact, we were already introduced to Avraham and his family in the closing verses of the previous Parsha. There are a number of people mentioned there, and a number of places too. The impression is one of confusion. The Torah account is sparse, but we can sense that much significant human drama is taking place, over a wide and diffuse arena.
We meet Terah (ninth generation from Noah), who leads a complicated life. Terah has vague intentions of moving to the Land of Canaan. In practice, he moves in the opposite direction – from his birth place Charan to Ur Casdim.
Terah leaves a son named Nahor in Haran, but is accompanied in his journey to Ur Casdim by another son, Avraham.
In Ur Casdim a third son is born to Terah. His name is Haran. Haran has two daughters (Milcah and Yisca) and a son (Lot) . Thereafter Haran dies – probably he is killed – in Ur Casdim.
We are not told the circumstances surrounding the death of Haran.
The Midrash speaks of tension between Terah and Avraham, concerning the worship of idols. Terah calls the attention of Nimrod (the king of Ur Casdim) to the iconoclastic behaviour of Avraham. In the ensuing complications, Haran meets his death.
Idol worship was certainly a problem in Ur Casdim. But it seems equally probable that the predatory sexual behaviour of the local potentate was a huge problem as well. It is possible to speculate that Haran was somehow killed because his two daughters (known to be beautiful) were coveted by the king.
After this catastrophe, Terah and Avraham leave Ur Casdim and return to their birthplace, Charan. They take with them the children of the dead Haran: Milca, Yisca, and Lot. Avraham marries Yisca (otherwise known as Sarah). Similarly, Nahor marries Milcah. Their descendants later include Rivka (Rebecca), Rahel, and Leah. These women, in the course of time, are married to the descendants of Avraham.
But a lot has to happen before the complex unification of the extended family of Terah can take place.
In our Parsha – as a response to all the complications previously mentioned – God says to Avraham Lech Lecha: move to the Land. This demands a leap of faith on the part of Avraham. But Avraham accepts the challenge.
Not that the move to the Promised Land solves all difficulties. On the contrary, many of the complications seem only to get worse. Yet the focus on this particular man – Avraham – and this particular place – the Land – is in the long term what is needed to move God’s creation away from generalized chaos and towards a world that is ordered and formed about a recognition and knowledge of the Creator.
The Land itself is in a highly parlous state. It has been invaded by the Canaanites, and is at this time even called after them – the Land of Canaan – even though the Canaanites are interlopers and do not belong there.
Sexual predation continues, and is a constant concern of Avraham and his descendants. Avimelech tries twice to abduct the wife of Avraham and Yitzhak (Isaac). Pharoah in Egypt tries to abduct the wife of Avraham. Later, there is the abduction of Dinah by Shechem. Avraham seems constantly aware of this threat. In fact, the very first thing he does when entering the Land is to pray for the sons of Yacov in their future battle with Shechem.
Lot, too, seems traumatized by what happened to his father. He offers his own daughters to the mob, in an effort to protect his own life; later in a drunken state he mates with these same daughters.
The relocation to the Promised Land is certainly difficult – but at the same time it is real! Circumstances are not easy, but it is in the Land of Israel that the moral dimension of God’s creation comes into play.
The Torah shows us that God himself is challenged by Avraham’s relocation to the promised land.
God challenges Avraham in personal terms:
ויאמר יהוה אל אברם
אל הארץ אשר אראך
God said to Avraham
from your land
and your birthplace
and the house of your father
to The Land which I will reveal
It is striking that when God announces his intention to destroy Sodom, Avraham confronts God in similarly personal terms, saying to Him:
מעשת כדבר הזה
להמית צדיק עם רשע
והיה כצדיק כרשע
השפט כל הארץ
לא יעשה משפט
It is a negation of Yourself
to do anything such as this
– to kill a righteous man with an evil one
thus equating the righteous with the evil –
This is a negation of Yourself!
Will the judge of all the Land
not do justice?!
The intimate and forceful dialog between God and Man necessary to bring about resolution of all such moral issues surrounding the life of Avraham and his descendants in Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) is crucial to the destiny and moral perfection of God’s Creation.
Thank God that Mike Pence is the new Vice President of the United States and not the other guy Cain (however he chooses to spell his name):
Mike Pence stands with Israel