Was Avram a Second Language Learner?

Was Avram a Second Language Learner?

Oct 15, 2021 By Avi Garelick | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

At the conclusion of Chapter 11 of Sefer Bereishit, the peoples of the world are divided by Divine command into distinct groups with mutually incomprehensible languages. This tale of the Tower of Babel accounts for the fundamental question of why human beings can be so different from each other while coming from the same source. It also sets the stage for what follows: a freshly divided world, with the inability to communicate as a driving force of division.

Read More
A Single Star: Sarah’s Journey

A Single Star: Sarah’s Journey

Oct 30, 2020 By Maya Zinkow | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

“I know this is not fun to hear on a Wednesday afternoon, but I would really look into getting fertility tests if I were you.” The harrowing text message from my sister came as I was waiting to hear back from her and my sister-in-law about their most recent cycle of egg retrieval and genetic testing. It was her way of telling me that once again, they received news that their journey to parenthood would not be a simple one. But it was also her way of reminding me that our expectations about our bodies, so deeply ingrained in us from a young age, often do not come to fruition in the ways we expect them to.

Read More
Go Forth: The Grammar of Remembrance

Go Forth: The Grammar of Remembrance

Nov 4, 2019 By David G. Roskies | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Jewish destiny begins with “Lekh-lekha,” “Go forth.” It marks the beginning of our journey through covenantal space; the beginning of our obligations under the terms of the covenant; the beginning of our family romance, so fraught with jealousy and betrayal; and the beginning of our ongoing dialogue with God. God speaks to Abram seven times in the parashah, tracking his every move, until, having reached the age of 99, Abram is addressed for the first time by his new covenantal name of “Avraham.” God speaks to him both oracularly, in verse, and in simple prose; both by day and by night: sometimes in a state of wakefulness and sometimes in a vision.

Read More
Abram the Hebrew

Abram the Hebrew

Oct 19, 2018 By Jonathan Sarna | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

“I believe we have not yet appointed a Hebrew,” President Abraham Lincoln wrote on November 4, 1862, to his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, amidst the Civil War. Partly to rectify that imbalance, he agreed to appoint Cheme (Cherie) Moise Levy, the son-in-law of Rabbi Morris J. Raphall of New York’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, to be an assistant quarter-master with the rank of captain. This may have been the first example of “affirmative action” in all of American Jewish history.

Read More
Land and People—When Things Get Real

Land and People—When Things Get Real

Oct 27, 2017 By Hillel Gruenberg | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Lekh Lekha is one of my favorite parashiyot because it marks the entrance of the biblical narrative “into history.” Putting aside the historicity of the Bible—the subject of no small scholarly debate—Lekh Lekha departs from the preceding biblical text as it introduces us to the lands, people, and civilizations that will serve as a backdrop for the millennia of triumph and tribulation that await Abraham, his descendants, and their contemporaries. Until now, the story has been fundamentally supernatural and ahistorical—the creation of the world and all that is in it, heavenly gifts and divine punishment, a cataclysmic flood, and extensive genealogies of the forebears of future nations, whose lifespans number in the hundreds of years.

Read More
A Land of Promise

A Land of Promise

Nov 11, 2016 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Abraham continually inspires us, his descendants, in his ability to place trust in the journey. God’s command to “[j]ourney forth from your country, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house” (Gen. 12:1) is striking: Leaving one’s country is doable. But to journey from one’s birthplace and familial connections is jarring—with the potential to transform one into an aimless wanderer. Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his roots for an indeterminate future—for the place that God will show him. A promise. And nothing more.

Read More
What Was Promised to Abraham?

What Was Promised to Abraham?

Nov 11, 2016 By Hillel Ben Sasson | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

In this week’s parashah, Abraham makes his dramatic first appearance on the stage of the Torah, when he follows the command to go forth to an unknown land, relying on the promise of an unknown God. His moving story, along with that of his sons and grandsons, has captivated readers from all three large monotheistic religions. Generation after generation wished to read these patriarchal and matriarchal stories into their lives, their time and place.

Read More
A Lesson for Abraham

A Lesson for Abraham

Oct 23, 2015 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Lekh Lekha was the first parashah I ever learned. As kids in Hebrew school, we were not taught Bereishit or Noah, probably because of the theological questions they would raise. We began Bible study with Lekh Lekha. I am happy to return to it as an adult and try to understand its message anew.

Read More
Claiming Our Ancestors: The Case of Terah

Claiming Our Ancestors: The Case of Terah

Oct 31, 2014 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

For all of us, there is no going without leaving; and so it was for Abraham: “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, and the house of your father to the land that I shall show you” (Gen. 12:1) [emphasis added]. And when we leave places, we leave people as well. When Abraham departed for Canaan he left behind, among others, his father Terah. And it was always thus: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother” (2:24).

Read More
The Eyes Have It: Looking at the Text

The Eyes Have It: Looking at the Text

Oct 31, 2014 By Anne Lapidus Lerner | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Matthias Stom’s “Sarah Leading Hagar to Abraham” (c. 1638)—brought to my attention by Mimi Kaplan, a student at the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary—is a proverbial picture worth a thousand words. 

Read More
God As an Ally

God As an Ally

Oct 9, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

A journey of four thousand years begins with God’s command to Abraham.

Read More
What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Oct 9, 2013 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, but you need to know the story.

Read More
A Palace in Flames

A Palace in Flames

Oct 27, 2012 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Lekh Lekha

What inspires one to leave home, to embrace mystery, to seek insight into the nature of our world? 

Read More
Trusting the Journey

Trusting the Journey

Oct 24, 2012 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Like many of the richest parts of the Torah, the opening lines of Parashat Lekh Lekha are fraught with ambiguity: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you’” (Gen. 12:1).

Read More
Abram’s Trek, a Journey of Generations

Abram’s Trek, a Journey of Generations

Oct 24, 2012 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

At the opening of this week’s parashah, Abram, the nascent visionary and patriarch of the Israelites, is given the divine command to separate from all that is known and familiar.

Read More
The Redeeming of Captives

The Redeeming of Captives

Nov 5, 2011 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

What does it mean to be someone’s brother or sister, beyond a biological fact? In Genesis, the answer seems to be: not much. Every story involving brothers is one of violence, discord, enmity, or deceit. Cain murders Abel; Ham shames his father and is doomed to serve his brothers. Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers—we all know how those relationships played out. In fact, the only brother who comes to his brother’s aid is not actually his brother: it is Abraham—then Abram—who rides to the rescue of his nephew Lot.

Read More
Gifts to God

Gifts to God

Nov 5, 2011 By David Levy | Commentary | Text Study | Lekh Lekha

The midrash seems to be pointing out that we can learn from Abraham: we are to give a gift to God when we receive good news.

Read More
Mentioning our Mothers

Mentioning our Mothers

Oct 16, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Lekh Lekha

Did the Imahot (matriarchs) have a relationship with God?

This question has nagged at me of late, brought to the surface by the welcome feminist language of the new Mahzor Lev Shalom. Faced by the names of the Imahot staring at me from the page, I found myself confronting anew a question I have not revisited in some time: was Abraham’s God Sarah’s God too?

Read More
Woody Allen’s Torah

Woody Allen’s Torah

Oct 12, 2010 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

The brilliance of Allen’s film arises from his portrayal of the ethical corruption of each of his characters and the extent to which he plays on the sense of sight. Ironically, the ophthalmologist, who specializes in physical sight, is corrupted by ethical blindness, while the rabbi, who represents morality, is physically going blind. Indeed, the juxtaposition of sight and insight figure prominently in both Allen’s film and this week’s parashah, Lekh Lekha. By focusing our exegetical lenses on the parting of ways between Avram and Lot (Gen. 13), we discover not only a physical separation between the two characters, but also a spiritual and ethical divide that cuts to the very core of their world views.

Read More
Connecting to an Ancient Text

Connecting to an Ancient Text

Oct 31, 2009 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

A wondrous quality of Torah study is that you can link the parashah to nearly any time, place, or subject. This puzzle is enjoyed by rabbis every week—how can I connect the ancient text to our contemporary context? I embrace this challenge, yet sometimes it makes me wonder: how much are we gleaning from the text, and how much are we interpolating?

Read More
Reset Search

SUBSCRIBE TO TORAH FROM JTS

Our regular commentaries and videos are a great way to stay intellectually and spiritually engaged with Jewish thought and wisdom.