Torah Study Notes 11-12-16

November 12, 2016

Discussion led by Rabbi Leah Berkowitz

Page 91 Abraham’s election as the founder of what would become Judaism – the first person to believe in one God. Called to an arduous journey late in his life. He will be the ancestor of all three monotheistic religions.

12:1 I will make your name great… This was originally written in verse; parallelisms – a chiasmus. But why him? What is God asking him to do and why would he do that? LL Most faiths begin with the inspiration of a single person. Others are worshiping another God. There are other faiths nearby that are dualist – a benevolent god and a malevolent one. A light side and a dark side – like Star Wars. Sometimes a masculine and feminine. The later tends to be pushed aside until the growth of adoration of Mary in Catholicism. There is midrash about Abraham smashing idols – which is not in the Torah. But it is interesting that he was chosen despite his flaws. One of the midrash is that his father was an idol maker and A was a rebel. The idols were destroyed by A except for one who he gave a stick. When his father returned, he asked what happened and A told him the gods had fought and only one survived. “But they are just statutes that I have made” his father said. “Then why do you worship them?” asked A.

12:4 So he set forth with his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot. He leaves without argument. They set forth to the land of Canaan. “I am giving this land to your descendants…” There is a psychological element here – it required a mental and physical commitment to strike off on one’s own. There are consequences to this “gift” of land that reverberate even today – as to who can occupy this land.  PC: It is comforting to replace “nation” with “a great ethical structure.” RB “Nation” just means a populous place here. It is not our modern notion of nationhood. There is an analogy here to political movements that get people fired up. Abraham may have had a message that people were waiting to hear.

12:6 He eventually travels to Egypt and prevails upon Sarai to pretend she was his sister. This worked well for Abraham initially. Pharaoh summoned A and said why did you do this? Take her and be gone! This happens twice to Sarah and once to Rebecca. SF: Why is this here? It certainly shows how flawed A was. He is tested again later. There may be similar myths in surrounding cultures. This kind of stories keep the attention of the audience. This is J and E authorship – two different stories with different kings.

12:13 He travels to Bethel and he and Lot argue. He builds an alter in Hebron. Lot picks what appears to be the most fertile land near Sodom – where wicked people lived. This is more of A separating himself from his past. In the previous parsha we see the death of his father. This separation from Lot is the last connection to his father s house.


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