Abraham the Wanderer

Abraham the Wanderer

Oct 31, 2009 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?

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Taking the Journey with Abraham

Taking the Journey with Abraham

Nov 7, 2008 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Five short verses after he (and we) first encounter that Land on which the Jewish future will turn ever after, a famine sends Abraham down to the place where he (and we) spend the remainder of chapter 12 of Genesis, a foreign land where he gets embroiled in a complex interaction with the Pharaoh that foreshadows a great deal of the text and history to come.

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The Many Qualities of Abram

The Many Qualities of Abram

Oct 12, 2007 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Abram in the light; Abram in the dark. Abram with men at war; Abram with women at war.

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Spiritual Journeys

Spiritual Journeys

Nov 4, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

One of the questions commentators wrestle with is “why was Abraham chosen?” What leads God to command this particular individual, lekh l’kha, “go to yourself”?

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Appreciating Our Blessings

Appreciating Our Blessings

Nov 3, 2006 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Imagine the following request: leave your home, your family, everything that you know and cherish and go — completely walk away from the world of your ancestors.

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Abraham: Knight of Many Faiths

Abraham: Knight of Many Faiths

Oct 23, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

It is hard to reconcile the glaring gap between promise and fulfillment in the story of Abraham.

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The Power of the Epithet

The Power of the Epithet

Oct 23, 2004 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

By Rabbi Benjamin Kramer

I had the privilege to spend last year studying Bible with Dr. Walter Herzberg. One of the many things I learned from him is the power of the epithet as a point of departure for a close reading of the Biblical text – especially their capacity to inform us about relationships between characters. I was given pause to reflect upon this lesson as I was reading Parashat Lek Lekha, and thinking about the evolution of the relationship between Abraham and Lot. I realized that I had probably always failed to understand the dynamics of their relationship because I had failed to understand Lot. 

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Between Humility and Grandeur

Between Humility and Grandeur

Nov 9, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Judaism is a religion of polarities. An in-depth view of reality requires a stereoscope. No single lens can do justice to any aspect of the complexity of our experience of the world.

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Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Nov 8, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

The central prayer of Jewish prayers, the Amidah, begins by identifying to whom one is praying: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. This identification serves not only to say who God is, but also to specify who the Jews are: the descendants of those patriarchs. At the same time, the Jews are also descendants of the matriarchs, and here’s the rub: though God’s promises are recorded in the Torah as given to the men, they would not have been achieved without the women.

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The Lonely and Crowded Path of Monotheism

The Lonely and Crowded Path of Monotheism

Oct 19, 2002 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Most Jews have the feeling that Jews are different, to a greater or lesser extent, from the other peoples of the world. Jews have long had a sense of separation from the rest of the world, yet togetherness with each other. Most Jews will say, in response to the question of who was the first Jew, that it was Abraham. It then follows that in order to get a better sense of what makes Jews different from other people­ which is another way of asking what Jewish identity consists of ­ that one needs to look at Abraham, and particularly as his career begins in this week’s parashah.

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Where Is God’s Awesomeness?

Where Is God’s Awesomeness?

Oct 19, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

The Tanakh is the quarry from which the siddur was constructed. Long passages and individual phrases were lifted to create the verbal prayer that became the hallmark of the synagogue. Best known are the three paragraphs of the Shema taken from the books of Deuteronomy and Numbers and the many psalms from the Psalter. This week’s parashah contributed only a single word to this edifice, but one of unique centrality and resonance.

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The Ongoing Processes of Creation

The Ongoing Processes of Creation

Oct 27, 2001 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Parashat Lekh L’kha is the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and, by extension, with all future Israelite generations. The climax of this story is the mitzvah of circumcision. Few mitzvot in our tradition have elicited the enduring commitment and unwavering observance of the majority of our people as has the ritual of circumcision. Few mitzvot have yielded the intensity of emotion and fascination which pervades any brit milah.

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The Mitzvah of Circumcision

The Mitzvah of Circumcision

Nov 11, 2000 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Parashat Lekh L’kha is the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and, by extension, with all future Israelite generations. The climax of this story is the mitzvah of circumcision. Few mitzvot in our tradition have elicited the enduring commitment and unwavering observance of the majority of our people as has the ritual of circumcision. Few mitzvot have yielded the intensity of emotion and fascination which pervades any brit milah.

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Abraham’s Struggle to See

Abraham’s Struggle to See

Oct 23, 1999 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Visual perception figures prominently in the week’s parasha, Parashat Lekh L’kha . Indeed, the verb ‘to see’, re’eh, repeats itself time and again – declaring its presence as the leitwort (‘leading word’ — a concept central to Martin Buber’s writings on the Bible) of the Abraham narrative. God commands Abraham to go forth “from your father’s house to the land that I will let you see” (Gen. 12:1); Abraham is concerned for his life “when the Egyptians see” Sarah (Gen. 12:12); and after the division of land between Lot and Abraham, God says to Abraham “Pray, lift up your eyes and see from the place where you are, to the north, to the Negev, to the east, and to the Sea” (Gen. 13:14). And although the Torah is silent on the particulars of God’s election of Abraham, many commentators credit Abraham’s keen sense of observation for pointing him in the ‘right’ direction. As will become evident through traditional and modern commentaries alike, this visual perception is at once Abraham’s greatest strength and most profound weakness.

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Torah: A Canon Without Closure

Torah: A Canon Without Closure

Oct 31, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Our parasha opens like a thunderclap on a clear day. Since No·ah, the voice of God had not been heard by human ear. For ten generations the Torah records not a single instance of communication. Then, without forewarning, God explodes into Abraham’s life: “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1).” The course of history was about to be rerouted.

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Abraham’s Landsmann

Abraham’s Landsmann

Nov 7, 1997 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

I was honored when Chancellor Schorsch asked me to fill in for him and write a d’var torah on Parashat Lech Lecha, because for this one week each year he and I are Landsmann. The word, in German or Yiddish, denotes compatriots, fellow countrymen. My own family ancestry traces back to Byelorussia, my grandparents hailing from Minsk and Pinsk. The Chancellor comes, as his readers surely know, from Germany. But each of us share a patrimony in this week’s Torah reading, for Parashat Lech Lecha was the bar mitzvah portion each of us chanted in our respective congregations all those many years ago.

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Leaving One’s Homeland

Leaving One’s Homeland

Oct 26, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

My family did not leave Germany till December 1938, some five weeks after the Nazis had destroyed Hanover’s magnificent synagogue on Kristallnacht. My father, the last rabbi of this once flourishing community, endured ten harrowing days in Buchenwald. Once we had to get out, my father was determined to leave Europe as well. We came to the States in March 1940, after a stop in England, which my father used to study English. He had just turned 41.

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Abraham the Noble Warrior

Abraham the Noble Warrior

Nov 4, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

The Torah does not give us a complete biography of Abraham, only a series of striking vignettes.

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The Power of Circumcision

The Power of Circumcision

Oct 15, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Unlike Shabbat, circumcision is not a creation of the Jewish religious imagination. It was widely practiced in the ancient Near East, though not in Mesopotamia from where Abraham and his clan migrated. Many of the building blocks of the Torah are borrowed from surrounding cultures. The most notable example is the system of animal sacrifices as the preferred way to worship God. The synagogue, with verbal prayer based on a sacred book, is the true religious breakthrough of Judaism and not the tabernacle in the wilderness or the temple in Jerusalem. The originality of the Torah often lies in its inspired recycling of older religious materials. Adroit adaptation invests a common custom with new meaning that is often stunning.

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Do Not Oppress the Stranger

Do Not Oppress the Stranger

Oct 23, 1993 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

As my bar-mitzva parasha, Lech Lecha has always carried a special measure of meaning for me. It marks the beginning of Jewish history with a story of exile. “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). And so did the Schorsch family, millennia later in December of 1938 from Nazi Germany. I even bear the name of Abraham’s son Isaac, born in this same parasha. Yitzhak is a joyous name filled with hope and affirmation. It means “he shall laugh.” For Abraham, Yitzhak signified the capacity of having a child in old age in a strange land. For my parents, Yitzhak bespoke an act of defiance in dark times. Faith has the power to shape reality, as it is said of Abraham in our parasha: “And because he put his trust in the Lord, He reckoned it to his merit” (Gen. 15:6). In short, my bar-mitzva in 1948, some eight years after we arrived in America, linked my life forever with Lech Lecha.

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