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
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 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
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
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.

Read More
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.

Read More